The deadline to register to vote for the November election is Monday, October 6, 2014. Keep that date in mind as you consider the obstacles faced by voters who lack the required picture I.D. to vote.
In the parlance of Regency dandies, the gross insult of ignoring an acquaintance is a “cut,” with various gradations and forms, including the cut direct (the explicit snub), the cut indirect (the “accidental” snub), the cut sublime (“missing” the snubbed party by staring intently at the sky), the cut infernal (opportunistically staring at one’s own feet), and so on.
In response to requests from the League of Women Voters, Dallas County Elections, the Texas Democratic Party, Battleground Texas, and others, all asking that the State make some gesture towards resolving the lack of picture I.D. for hundreds of thousands of Texas voters, Texas officials have answered with a particularly insulting snub.
Now, keep in mind that attorneys for the State of Texas have touted the outreach efforts of the State in order to blunt the argument that the 2011 picture I.D. requirements are intended to disproportionately disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and minority voters, and that the creation of “mobile EICs’ (mobile election I.D. centers) by the Department of Public Safety is a centerpiece of the State’s effort to mitigate the negative consequences of the voter I.D. law.
So Texas officials must have really put their heart into getting i.d.s into the hands of voters who otherwise will be ineligible to vote, right? Let’s take a look at the schedule:
1. Mobile EIC for Dallas County – Tuesday, September 23, 2014 (i.e., two days from today, or 13 days before the deadline to register to vote).
|Dallas County Elections Department 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM||2377 N. Stemmons Frwy., Suite 820, Dallas, Texas 75207|
Hmm. One location. One day. A Tuesday. Six hours. In the middle of the day on a weekday. In a county with a voting-age population of 1.7 million, of whom an estimated 220,000 lack sufficient I.D. to vote.
Well, that’s one way to address the problem of lack of I.D. for voters in Dallas County. A few more slaps across the face with a silk glove, and all of Dallas County’s issues will simply melt away.
Presumably, the State would argue in response that (1) in 2013, more extensive efforts by both the State and Dallas County to address the lack of I.D. prior to the November 2013 constitutional amendment election (a sleepy off-year election) netted the production of only 6 I.D. cards, indicating (2) a lack of public concern or need for picture I.D.s.
Unfortunately, the State’s argument is undercut by selection bias and self-serving justification, and (as demonstrated below) by the disparate treatment of populations in other parts of the State. I don’t doubt that this lone mobile EIC won’t see much business, because really, how could it see much business?
Here’s a sure-fire recipe for failure:
(1) Take a group of voters who lack mobility, funds, adequate I.D., or any direct awareness of their ineligibility to vote (given that the targeted voters are less likely to see or know about “votetexas.gov,” or have any access to a computer or the Internet).
(2) Fail to address any of the obstacles these voters face in knowing about or getting adequate I.D.,
(3) Host a mobile I.D. clinic that is designed as a symbol and proof of failure and corrupted endeavor, and then announce that all those forgotten voters don’t actually exist, arguing that obviously if they did exist, they would have shown up promptly at the Dallas County Elections Office on Stemmons Freeway. at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday, with their original birth certificates or unexpired passports in hand and ready to apply for their election I.D.s.
But (you might think) maybe the State is so overwhelmed and so limited in resources that it can’t do a better job even if it wanted to. Hmm.
2. Mobile EIC for Tom Green County – Tuesday, September 23, Wednesday, September 24, and Thursday, September 25th, 2014.
September 23, 2014
|Goodwill 10:00 A.M-4:00 P.M.||4216 College Hills Boulevard, San Angelo, Texas 76904|
September 24, 2014
|Lowe’s Food Store 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM||1926 North Bryant, San Angelo, Texas|
September 25, 2014
|Southside Recreation Center 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM||2750 Ben Ficklin, San Angelo, Texas|
Hmm. The times of day aren’t any better – and each location is available only on one of three weekdays. But that’s three locations over three days, serving a voting-age population of 84,000, of whom an estimated 15,000 lack sufficient I.D.
So … Tom Green County has a little less than 5% of the voting-age population of Dallas County, but gets three times the amount of mobile I.D. stations.
Here’s another way to look at this. If you are a voter without the required photo I.D. in Tom Green County, the State of Texas loves and cares about you about 60 times more than it loves and cares about a voter without I.D. in Dallas County. Civil rights litigators take note – that looks to me like a prima facie violation of the Voting Rights Act.
3. Mobile EIC for Upshur County – Thursday, September 25
|Upshur County Tax Office 9:00 – 4:00||P215 N Titus, Gilmer TX 75644|
Okay, Upshur County gets an hour more than Dallas County, albeit also on a weekday during business hours. For a voting population of 29,500.
Upshur County’s voting population is 1.7% of Dallas County’s voting population. So, if you’re a voter in Upshur County, and you’re competing for the State’s affections with a voter in Tom Green County, how do you fare? You don’t get three days of help at three locations, admittedly, but there are fewer of you.
Well, my back-of-the envelope math suggests that the State only loves and cherishes you 58 times more than a similarly situated voter in Dallas County. Time to outbid Tom Green County on sending flowers to the Secretary of State.
But (you ask) what about Harris County? I mean, that’s one of the most populous counties in the nation, with a correspondingly large number of voters who lack picture I.D. How does Harris County fare?
4. Mobile EIC for Harris County – Saturday, September 27
|Moody Community Center Houston Multipurpose Room 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM||3725 Fulton Houston, Texas 77009|
Saturday! For six hours! That’s a plus. But … that’s one location, one week prior to the deadline to register to vote. That’s for a countywide voting-age population of almost 2.95 million voters, of whom an estimated 529,000 lack sufficient I.D. to vote.
So, citizens of Harris County – the State is willing to give you six glorious hours of weekend access to a mobile EIC, offset somewhat by the fact that that sole mobile EIC is expected to serve a voting population that’s larger than the voting population of Dallas County by more than a third. So either the State cares slightly more for Dallas County voters, or slightly more for Harris County voters, depending on how one feels about not having to take time off on a weekday to get a picture I.D. Let’s call it a wash.
Now, I could keep on going – the State has scheduled mobile EICs to serve various towns and territories from now until October 15th, all holding generally to the pattern that the smaller, whiter, and more rural areas will get more opportunities than larger urban areas.
And my very rough summary doesn’t really capture the indignity of the schedule, because I’ve treated each mobile EIC as if it’s dedicated just to serving the voters in a single county. The disparate treatment of different populations is more pronounced when one engages in a more accurate analysis based on the total multi-county population served by each station. Because it’s not just that Dallas County only gets one mobile EIC between now and Election Day. It’s that the entire heavily urbanized and built up North Texas region gets one mobile EIC between now and Election Day – that spot at the Dallas County Offices will be the only mobile EIC offered to any voter without picture I.D. anywhere closer than halfway between the City of Dallas and the City of San Angelo. To put it in very rough geographic terms, one could say that the mobile EIC on Stemmons Freeway on Tuesday, September 23rd is serving all of the communities in Texas within about 100 miles of the City of Dallas. That includes all the cities and towns of the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area.
What is even more shocking than the poor service offered to Dallas County and Harris County residents is the complete snubbing (I guess we’d have to call it a “cut direct”) of Bexar County. There were a few locations in and around the San Antonio area that were manned leading up to the May elections, but the State currently plans to have no mobile EICs whatsoever for the greater San Antonio region between now and Election Day. Similarly, there will be no mobile EICs in the Austin area, but we already knew that the State hates Austin.
The handy thing about the schedule for mobile EICs that’s been posted by the State (http://votetexas.gov/election-identification-certificate-mobile-stations) is that by using it as a guide, you can get an excellent sense of just how much the State cares about you as a voter, and about how well-liked you are in the eyes of the State’s executive officers, based on how accommodating the State is of your needs between September 23 and November 4.
If you live in Amarillo, Waco, Tyler, Floresville, New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, San Angelo, or Gilmer, congratulations. The State likes you. If you live in or around Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, or San Antonio and you lack sufficient I.D., please note that the State is only as concerned for your welfare as is absolutely necessary to keep from breaking out in spontaneous snickering while defending against Section 2 Voting Rights Act claims in Federal court.
ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST
Between now and Election Day, voters in the unloved areas of Texas still have a chance to push for additional mobile EICs – at least based on this statement by the Secretary of State that, “[m]ore locations will be added as they are scheduled and confirmed. Based on the mobile nature of the units, locations, dates and times are subject to change.”
It is certainly possible that this picture will improve, but only if we compel the State to improve it. As Emily Post noted regarding the archaic and boorish practice of openly and deliberately ignoring someone’s presence:
Anyone who is preoccupied is apt to pass others without being aware of them, and without the least want of friendly regard. Others who have bad memories forget even those by whom they were much attracted. This does not excuse the bad memory, but it explains the seeming rudeness. A “cut” is very different. It is a direct stare of blank refusal, and is not only insulting to its victim but embarrassing to every witness. Happily it is practically unknown in polite society.” -Emily Post, “The Cut Direct” in Etiquette (1922) (emphasis added).