Toward the end of a press release describing the Texas mandate that voters present photo identification at the polls, the League of Women Voters of Texas Education Fund said: "Photo ID is not required for those who vote by mail."
Granted, there is an obvious logistical lurch in requiring someone who mails in a ballot to also in some fashion prove that they are the person whose ballot is being cast. That is, for you youngsters, there’s not yet an instant-check app for that.
But still, if the 2011 ID law put in place by the state’s ruling Republicans was intended to prevent voter impersonation, it’s arguably a twist that there is no ID provision for those who vote by mail.
As noted by the league, voters going to the polls will be expected to present a photo ID issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (a driver's license, personal ID card, concealed handgun license or election identification certificate) or by the federal government (a passport, military ID or a citizenship or naturalization certificate). The registration deadline for voting in the Nov. 5, 2013, election is Oct. 7.
So, no photo ID for Texans voting by mail?
By email, Linda Krefting of Lubbock, who chairs the education fund, pointed out the 2011 law has no provision for photo IDs being presented in connection with balloting by mail. She also pointed out a query and reply on a "Frequently Asked Questions" web page kept by the Texas Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections:
"A. The new requirement does not change the process for voting by mail."
Another question and answer on the web page delivers more detail, stating that a registered voter wishing to vote early by mail, which is no longer called "absentee voting," may request a mail ballot by meeting any of several conditions. That is, according to the answer, the voter will be out of her or his home county on Election Day and during the early-voting period or the voter is sick or disabled or she or he will be 65 or older on Election Day or confined in jail though still eligible to vote.
Chapter 82 of the Texas Election Code further defines "disabled"; a disability can include an expectation of being in childbirth on Election Day, for instance. Also, a person in jail can be allowed to vote in person at the discretion of the authority in charge of the jail, the law says.
By telephone, Alicia Pierce, an office spokeswoman, confirmed that the state voter ID law did not impose photo ID requirements on Texans voting by mail.
But there is a photo-ID element to federal law, Pierce said, in that a first-time voter who registers to vote without providing either their photo ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number will be asked by county officials to send a copy of their ID if she or he requests a mail ballot.
By phone, Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County clerk, told us local officials must request a copy of a photo ID of such first-time voters in accord with the federal Help America Vote Act, which took effect in 2006. She said the ID copy must be sent back to the county in the envelope holding, but separate from, the sealed mail-in ballot.
DeBeauvoir emailed us the county’s notice requesting photo IDs of such voters. Notably, it says that mail-ballot voters are still not required to send a copy of a photo ID if they check a box indicating they are "disabled, in the military or living overseas."
DeBeauvoir said that in the 2012 general election, about 3 percent of the county’s ballots for president were submitted by mail.
A snapshot of current events: In late September 2013, county elections official Michelle Parker told us by phone that 1,767 of the county’s more than 600,000 registered voters--less than 3/10 of 1 percent--had been flagged to possibly be asked for photo IDs should those voters seek to vote by mail in the 2013 elections.
The league said: ""Photo ID is not required for those who vote by mail."
That’s correct for all but first-time voters who did not present a photo ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number when registering to vote. Such voters who seek to vote by mail can expect to be asked for a copy of their photo ID, yet even these voters do not have to do so if they are disabled, in the military or living overseas.
We see nothing significant missing from this claim and rate it as True.
TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing.
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Telephone interviews, Alicia Pierce, title, Texas Secretary of State’s office, Sept. 25, 2013
Web page, "FAQ," VoteTexas.gov, Texas Secretary of State’s office (accessed Sept. 25, 2013)
Telephone interviews, Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County clerk, Austin, Sept. 25 and 26, 2013
Notice sent to some Travis County voters by mail, "Request for Identification" (received by email from Dana DeBeauvoir, Sept. 25, 2013)
Telephone interview, Michelle Parker, assistant director, Travis County Elections Division, Sept. 25, 2013