Election 2016

Confusion Over Voter ID Spreads As Early Voting Continues

Poll workers in Houston, Austin, and other major cities are telling voters they can’t vote without a government-issued photo ID, according to complaints fielded by the Texas Civil Rights Project. That’s despite a federal court ruling to the contrary.

As early voting continues across Texas, complaints are piling up of problems at polling locations. Grievances range from long lines to faulty machines. But they also include poll workers providing false or misleading information about voter ID requirements. The Texas Civil Rights Project reports fielding more than 200 such complaints since Monday. Most are coming from the state’s largest metro areas.

“So in the Bayland Park Community Center in Harris County, we actually saw people report to us that there was poll workers letting them know wrong information about the voter ID [law],” says Zenén Jaimes Pérez, a spokesman for the project. “They were told that they needed photo ID. Same thing happened in other parts of Harris County. And we’re also seeing that actually in San Antonio.”

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

A federal appeals court ruled earlier this year that Texas’ voter ID law discriminated against minorities and the poor. Under a compromise agreement between Texas and the Justice Department, voters unable to obtain a photo ID can use several alternate forms of identification, such as a paycheck or a utility bill.

But attorney Matt Williams says he saw something different when he went to vote in Dripping Springs, near Austin.

“Almost immediately upon arriving and getting in line,” he says, “one of the poll workers started kind of intercepting the people walking out of the parking lot yelling, ‘You have to have a valid photo ID to vote today.’ And she continued, probably for the next half hour, her and one other lady would walk up and down the line, and they would yell that same information.”

Williams says several people in line protested, calling attention to the recent court ruling. They even pointed out the language on posters in the polling station explaining the new rules. Williams says the poll workers ignored them. “If I hadn’t had a valid ID, I would have walked away thinking I could not vote.”

News 88.7 reached out to the Hays County election administrator for comment on the early voting situation in Dripping Springs. We were unable to make contact by air time.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Carlos Cascos says the office is unaware of poll workers providing incorrect information. The Texas Civil Rights Project sent Cascos an e-mail detailing the problems on Tuesday.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart downplays any such problems in Houston.

“The complaints have been almost nonexistent,” Stanart says. “We’ve trained our clerks and our judges exactly how to handle this, and they are doing it.”

More than a quarter of a million people have already cast ballots in Harris County, either in person or by mail. That’s more than 10 percent of the county’s total number of registered voters.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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