Vet ID holders cannot vote?
(Brian Chasnoff) Local Democrats are up in arms about a controversial voter ID bill that would exclude veterans’ identification cards from the short list of photo IDs required to cast a vote in Texas.
Ann McGeehan, director of the Secretary of State’s elections division, said last week at a seminar in Austin that photo ID cards issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are not acceptable forms of military ID to vote, according to a recording provided by the Texas Democratic Party.
Jordy Keith, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, backpedaled Friday on that determination.
“It was an informal Q&A, and (McGeehan) was answering based on what was expressly called out in Senate Bill 14,” Keith said. “Right now our office has not issued a final determination on that.”
Passed after Gov. Rick Perry declared voter ID an emergency issue in the last session, the strict bill is touted by Republicans as a way to reduce voter fraud but decried by Democrats as an effort to lower voter turnout among minorities and the elderly, disabled and poor.
Texas voters, beginning next year, cannot cast a ballot without one of the following forms of photo identification: a Texas driver’s license; a Texas concealed handgun license; a U.S. passport; citizenship papers; or a military identification card.
Veterans eligible for VA medical benefits receive the VA cards, which include photos.
“We have a lot of young vets,” Jones said. “We have a lot of vets who are homeless. The only way they interchange with the community is through the (Veteran’s Administration).”
He added, “They already don’t trust the system. And now they’re being told they can’t vote.”
“Not only are they going to disenfranchise the Latino vote, they’re also going to disenfranchise our military personnel who fought for our ability to vote,” said Farias, who served in Vietnam. “In haste, because they wanted to pass a voter ID bill, (Republicans) hurt the same people who fought and are dying to give us that right.”
Janice McCoy, spokeswoman for state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, a major author of the bill, acknowledged that it does not include the VA card as an acceptable form of photo identification.
State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, sponsored Fraser’s bill in the House.
Surprised by the controversy, Harless said on Friday that she understood the bill to encompass VA cards.
“It’s my opinion that any military identification card issued by the government was one of the acceptable forms of ID in the Texas voter ID legislation,” she said.
Robert Hernandez, a veteran and junior vice commander at VFW Post 76, said the bill has a different effect.
“You’re saying the (VA) card’s not valid, you’re telling the man he’s not valid,” he said.