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By Quinlan Mitchell
November 3, 2014
Caption : In Texas, voters are doing their best to obtain a voter I.D. before elections, after the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to allow the state's controversial I.D. law to be implemented.     

Tuesday is Election Day, and as officials around the country are getting ready, citizens in one state are finding that they also have some extra prep work to do this year.

In Texas, voters are doing their best to obtain a legal identification card before elections, after the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to allow the state’s controversial ID law to be implemented. The Supreme Court ruling followed the decision by Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos early last month to strike down the law, declaring it a “poll tax.”

The Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the decision was made too closely to November’s midterm elections and lifted an injunction blocking the ID law until after elections were over. The ruling was praised by the office of the Texas Secretary of State.

“The State will continue to defend the voter ID law and remains confident that the district court’s misguided ruling will be overturned on the merits…The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that voter ID laws are a legal and sensible way to protect the integrity of elections,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, said.

But with voter ID back on in Texas, it turns out that things aren’t progressing as smoothly as some had hoped. The Brennan Center has collected stories from within the state of voters who have already encountered problems with voter ID during the early voting period. The stories feature voters from a range of backgrounds, including minorities, members of disabled populations, and the young and old.

Olester McGriff, for example, was able to successfully cast his ballot in Texas this year, but not without difficulty and the aid of one kind volunteer. McGriff had a kidney transplant and is no longer able to drive, according to the Brennan Center. He visited two offices long before Election Day, in May and June, respectively, hoping to obtain an ID. At one office, McGriff was denied because, according to workers there, they had run out of ID’s to give.

Even without an ID, McGriff went to the polls during early voting with the help of election volunteer Susan McGinn, who drove him there. Appearing with an expired license, birth certificate, voter registration card, and other documents, he was still denied. Finally, McGriff was able to vote with an absentee ballot due to his disability, but only after McGinn urged poll workers to review the election policies and determine if he was eligible.

Mr. McGriff’s story is just one of many collected by the Brennan Center highlighting voters who are struggling to exercise their basic rights. Their collective stories reveal that the situation in Texas is much as one Supreme Court justice feared it would be in the wake of the ruling. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who issued a dissenting opinion, sharply critiqued the court’s decision to simply let what she considered to be a flawed law stand.

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections” would stem from “enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Justice Bader Ginsburg wrote in her conclusion.

For voters like McGriff and others, that is certainly the case in Texas on the eve of elections. And whether or not Texas’ law will stay on the books permanently, any ruling will come too late to help voters with the proper identification this year.

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