Home » Analysis » Ginsburg Wasn’t So Wrong About Texas and Veteran’s I.D.s

Ginsburg Wasn’t So Wrong About Texas and Veteran’s I.D.s

As a number of news organizations have noted, Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Veasey v. Perry contained a minor factual error – originally, the dissent contained a sentence stating that Texas did not accept veteran’s I.D.s as acceptable forms of photo I.D. in the polling place.

In fact, this statement was true when S.B. 14 was signed into law in 2011veteran’s i.d.s were not acceptable forms of identification, specifically because they were not subject to regular renewal, and were not regarded as the equivalent of active military i.d.s.

Really, the statement that the law doesn’t permit the use of veteran’s I.D.s is still true, or at least would be true, but for a clever bit of sophistic maneuvering by the State.

Nothing in the language of the law has changed between 2011 and now, and so Justice Ginsburg’s mistake is entirely understandable. In fact, to have not spoken in error, she would have had to know about the unwritten internal politics surrounding the implementation of the voter I.D. law.

When Section 63.0101 of the Texas Election Code was amended to impose the requirement for photo I.D., subsection (2) of that section defined one form of acceptable I.D. as being “a United States military identification card that contains the person’s photograph that has not expired or that expired no earlier than 60 days before the date of presentation.”

Media sources and veterans groups castigated the law for what what veterans groups saw as a betrayal of their constituency. The outrage caught Governor Perry and the bill drafters by surprise, and came at an awkward time for Governor Perry (who was at that time campaigning for the Republican nomination in the 2012 Presidential election, and who was touting his support for a strong military).

The proponents and drafters of the Texas picture I.D. law had been so eager to disenfranchise minorities, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and students, etc., that they had rushed headlong into accidentally disenfranchising a large, politically active, and vocal voting bloc with symbolic importance for conservatives.


The political reaction was swift. After delicate consultations (the rumblings of which are lightly hinted at within an October 17, 2013 memo issued by Keith Ingram, which among other things, urges county election officials to “discard” earlier materials regarding voter I.D.), the Secretary of State determined that the proper interpretation of the law was that veteran’s I.D.s were acceptable because they didn’t expire (glossing over the fact that technically, veteran’s I.D.s are not military I.D.s, and veterans are not members of the military). But things were briefly touch and go between groups touting veteran’s rights and the State of Texas.

Of course, what the episode illustrated in a more general way was the fundamental hypocrisy of the 2011 law – that the law was subject to ad hoc changes in its application and textual interpretation to benefit one group of voters over another, if those voters happened to be “the right kind of voters.”


  1. Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide says:

    The greatest pleasure I have is in reading something intelligent coming out of the legal field in Texas, a state where I lived for thirty years. The Texas Election Blog is that rare cold dispassionate voice of reason and detailed insight that makes one glad to have a bit of Texas in himself (or herself), for the writers look clinically and issues and problems and surgically address each cancer, as with the “error” of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg’s dissent. No mortal is a omniscient god who sees into all things, as what Ginsburg argued against was the crass disenfranchisement of voters due to an antiquated idea that each person had to have prescribed identification–identical to Jim Crow legislation put in place to disenfranchise Blacks more than a generation ago–a disenfranchisement that has been carried on clandestinely and relentlessly by the misadministration of the Perry government. It is time to look more closely into the machinations of this maligning and malevolent maneuvering to keep minorities and minor groups suppressed because, although not heralded, they tend to vote Democrat.

  2. N. E. Longoria says:

    Dare one inquire as to the demographics of Texas Veterans and Active Military and how those demographics might affect the vote?

    • That’s a good question. From what little I’ve seen, veterans and active military tend to sort themselves out based on their class status – young, poor, minority and disabled vets tend to be more liberal, and old, wealthy vets tend to be more conservative.

      Similarly, young non-commissioned members of the armed forces tend to be (1) disproportionately drawn from minority populations, (2) poor, and (3) liberal, while the officer class tends to be disproportionately white and conservative.

      But it’s hard to generalize just from my gut feeling, so I looked to see whether anybody else has done a study of this.

      Geoffrey Skelly, at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, wrote an interesting piece recently that described voting trends among veterans. That piece (here: http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/how-veterans-vote/) suggests that veterans are individually influenced more by factors other than their veteran status.

      Nevertheless, a few trends emerge. Veterans are disproportionately male, and male voters are disproportionately likely to identify with the Republican Party. Veterans tend to be older than the general voting population, and older voters tend to identify with the Republican Party as well.

      A 2009 Gallup Poll study found that independent of age, veterans are more likely to identify with the Republican Party (that study is at http://www.gallup.com/poll/118684/military-veterans-ages-tend-republican.aspx).

      So what are we to make of all this? In general, Republican candidates see active-duty and veteran voters as “their” voters. This isn’t always true – a young, college-educated veteran, a female veteran, or a disabled veteran might (on an individual basis) be more likely to identify with the Democratic Party.

      However, as a group, veterans tend not to have characteristics of liberal voters, and so Republican political consultants are probably safe to assume that on balance, it’s a smart move for conservatives to appeal to the military vote.

      • Oh, and as for the effect of the military vote – I think the military in Texas (veteran and active duty) is about 9% of the voting population – certainly not something to sneeze at.

  3. N. E. Longoria says:

    That is exactly why I asked the question. My research had uncovered much the same information. The good new is, we Boomers are going the way of all dinosaurs. I sincerely hope we are leaving behind generations that value, respect and embrace diversity and who are not terrified of change. The growing percentage of Americans who support same-sex marriage is some indication that that we are!

  4. Frank Provasek says:

    Texas DPS defines military ID as a primary form of ID, and defines Veterans cards not as a primary or even secondary form of ID, but merely “a supporting document” like an electric bill with your name on it. . The Veterans cards are pictured in a PDF file here http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/id/acceptable-forms-of-ID.pdf

    The VA created a NEW card called Veterans HEALTH Identification Card (VHIC) to go alongside the Veterans Identificatiion Card (VIC) The new card rolled out in Summer of 2014, so even AFTER the regular Veterans ID cards were somehow added in 2013, an additional card was added in 2014, while the Veasey v Perry lawsuit was underway.

    You wouldn’t know these veterans cards are accepted by a text search on the SOS website (or any state website). They are only shown as images in powerpoint or pdf files — and do not show up in a Google search. They are not mentioned in the law, the election code, nor on the state voter portal here http://votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/need-id/ or on the posters displayed at the polling places http://votetexas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/poster-8.5×14-aw.pdf

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