So in the interest of making sure, I don’t know, that people getting Texas personal i.d.s and drivers’ licenses are really, truly, Texans, the Department of Public Safety needs to see documentary evidence that people have been living here for at least 30 days.
And of course the whole process of getting an I.D. in Texas, (whether for driving or voting) has become encrusted with the externalized legislative response to various fears, obsessions, and anxieties about “outsiders,” “foreigners,” “strangers,” the different, and so on.
A while back, my sister and fellow attorney asked how it could be the case that the Texas voter I.D. law could exclude voters from using forms of I.D. issued by other states when voting in the polling place. She pointed out that Texas would seem to be violating Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which states in part that:
Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.
So if a state other than Texas has records that confirm my existence and identity, why doesn’t that confirm my existence and identity to the satisfaction of poll workers in Texas?
Well … because …, because ….
In fact, the power of “full faith and credit” and the related common law concept of comity among jurisdictions is and should be a powerful one. In fact, the Texas law suffers from the same vulnerability as the Pennsylvania voter I.D. law recently declared unconstitutional (to be fair, that Pennsylvania court decision didn’t cite or rely on the “full faith and credit” clause, and instead reviewed the law in part in the context of state constitutional guarantees of suffrage. Further, the Pennsylvania court explicitly did not rule that the law was applied to different voters in disparate ways, merely that the law was infirm on its face for burdening the act of voting).
When a State (in effect) sneers at and discredits the documentation and records of a sister State, such behavior is tantamount to a closing of the borders. Of course, failing to give full faith and credit to the records of other states may also violate the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by granting differential levels of rights of citizenship based on false or pretextual criteria.
While people may not point it out often enough, the problems with Texas voter I.D. laws aren’t just Voting Rights Act problems or Civil Rights Act problems. The laws are also likely infirm when viewed in the context of the “full faith and credit” clause of the Constitution, and additionally subject to intense scrutiny and criticism under pre-Constitutional foundational principals of the common law (such as comity).