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By W. Gardner Selby January 26, 2011

Mario Gallegos says right now, 98,184 Texas motorists are legally driving without licenses showing their photos

A Democratic state senator warned Tuesday that a Republican-sought mandate requiring Texas voters to present photo IDs at the polls could leave nearly 100,000 drivers unable to cast ballots.

Sen. Mario Gallegos of Houston specified that 98,184 residents "are driving with this paper right here," waving a sheet of paper we took to be a state form, and without a license featuring their photo. His point: Such Texans would be prevented from voting if the legislation before the Senate passes into law.

Gallegos’ statement came up as he pressed Republican senators to speak to how the proposal would affect drivers who relinquish their licenses to law enforcement officers and are then given temporary licenses.

"I’ve known some folks that have had their licenses pulled and have not gone through the process, and there’s no photo ID. All they’re given is the sheet of paper that I have right here, that they’re driving with," Gallegos said. "98,184 that are driving with this paper right here, no photo ID."

Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, replied that the issue needs clearing up.

We reached Gallegos’ legislative director, Debra Gonzales, who shared information she attributed to the Texas Department of Public Safety stating that in 2010, 98,184 people were arrested for violating provisions of the Texas Transportation Code related to operating a motor vehicle or watercraft under the influence of alcohol. Section 524.011 of the code says the officer shall issue a temporary driving permit "unless department records show or the officer otherwise determines that the person does not hold a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle" in Texas. The 2010 number is down from the recent high of 103,155, set in 2007, according to the information.

Gonzales forwarded a copy of the form for the temporary permit, which says: "If your Texas driver license was confiscated, this document will serve as your temporary driving permit... This permit is valid for 40 days from the date of service," meaning the date the original license was taken away. If a driver seeks a hearing, though, the temporary permit remains valid until a judge makes a final decision in their case.

Next, we contacted the DPS. Spokesman Tom Vinger said that once a detained driver is moved to a police station or sheriff’s office, he or she is asked to take a chemical test measuring blood alcohol concentration.The officer tells the driver their license will be suspended if they refuse to take the test or fail it. The officer also confiscates the original license and issues a temporary driving permit.

In an e-mail, Vinger said that 98,184 people were arrested for driving while intoxicated during 2010. He cautioned, though, that not all of the drivers ended up with temporary licenses.

Vinger also noted that a driver who has had their license confiscated due to a DWI arrest remains eligible for a Texas-issued identification card, which includes a photograph. The six-year cards typically cost $16, he said.

Gonzales, Gallegos’ aide, later agreed that arrested individuals could obtain state photo IDs, potentially satisfying the proposed voter ID law, though she said doing so might involve hassles. The bigger point, she said by e-mail, is "that out of 100,000 people per year that get arrested for DWIs," the voter ID proposal is "bound to negatively impact one as a voter, disenfranchising them. And if one is affected, then it’s one too many."

Our sense: Gallegos’ statement incorrectly assumes everyone arrested for DWI during 2010 not only received a temporary license when arrested but is currently driving with such a license. DPS did not pinpoint the number of current drivers with temporary permits. Also, affected individuals can get other state-issued photo IDs.

We rate Gallegos’ statement Half True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

e-mail (excerpted) and follow-up e-mail (excerpted), responses to PolitiFact Texas, Debra Gonzales, legislative director, state Sen. Mario Gallegos, Jan. 25, 2011

Interviews and e-mails (excerpted), Tom Vinger, assistant chief of media relations, Texas Department of Public Safety, Jan. 25, 2011

Texas Department of Public Safety, form, "Notice of Suspension, Temporary Driving Permit," received Jan. 25, 2011

Texas Legislative Council, Texas Transportation Code, Section 524.011, "OFFICER'S DUTIES FOR DRIVER'S LICENSE SUSPENSION," (accessed Jan. 25, 2011)

Texas Senate, RealMedia Video Archives--2011, "Senate Session, Part 1," (remarks by Sen. Gallegos at about 1:08 mark) (accessed Jan. 25, 2011)

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Mario Gallegos says right now, 98,184 Texas motorists are legally driving without licenses showing their photos

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