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At the First Voter ID Outreach Event, Officials Focus More on Registration, Less on New Rules

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
A file photo of a polling location in Travis County on February 23, 2016.

Yesterday, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos visited an undergraduate American history class at UT Austin to talk about voting, as part of the state's voter outreach effort following a court battle over the state's voter ID law. 

About a month ago, a federal appeals court ruled the state's voter ID law made it harder for minorities to vote. Officials were told to change the law and spend $2.5 million on efforts to explain those changes. But when Cascos kicked off his voter outreach tour, the new rules weren't really the focus.

According to a press release, he was there to talk about what forms of identification voters “need to have when they go to the polls in November.” But, most of the time, Cascos talked about voting in general— run-of-the-mill voter outreach stuff.

“One quarter of the room here could have flipped my election the other way,” he told students, recounting a tight mid-term election. “So, every vote does count.”

Cascos also talked about voter apathy and the importance of down ballot races. But filling in voter information gaps for students wasn’t really the focus of this event. If anything, there was more of an emphasis on voter registration.

“You have to decide at some point where you are going to vote, where you are going to register to vote,” he said. “So, all the hands being raised about registering to vote, I’m assuming that you are going to register here in Travis County, which is fine.”

Any other election year, this would be fine, but this isn’t a regular year.

Credit Ashley Lopez / KUT

Right now, the state is under a court order to educate voters about changes to its voter ID law. The state used to require voters one of seven acceptable photo IDs. It was one of the strictest laws in the country, but officials lost a lengthy court battle over that law, and it’s since been changed.

State officials like Cascos have a short window to educate people about those changes.

And the only reason Cascos even talked about voter ID during his visit to the UT class is because a student specifically asked what ID she needed to vote. 

“Now, for those that do not have that form of ID, for whatever reason, then they have the opportunity to sign a form stating why they don’t have any form of the seven [IDs] and then they can present a non-photo ID," Cascos responded. "They can present something like a utility bill with their name and address on it.”

College students are going to be a tricky crowd to educate on this stuff anyway because they move so much and typically have multiple addresses in a short period of time.

But, for those who don't have one of those seven forms of photo identification – for example, a UT student without a Texas driver's license – the Secretary of State's website has a list of the acceptable forms of ID non-photo ID:

  • voter registration certificate
  • birth certificate (original)
  • utility bill
  • bank statement
  • government check
  • paycheck
  • original government document with a name and address 

While a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office says voter education materials are in the works, there were none during yesterday’s stop. For now, the agency is directing people to the state’s voter website for information,

The state will also be buying ads closer to the election aimed at voter education related to the new voter ID rules.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story suggested that not having matching addresses on a photo ID and your voter registration would be an obstacle to voting. While the addresses don't have to match, a voter's address in a county's registrar is required to ensure the proper ballot is given to a voter. That segment of the story has been removed for the purpose of clarity.


Ashley Lopez covers politics and health care. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.
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