Checking claims about Texas voting rights and fraud
By 3-0, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals today agreed the state's Republican-steered mandate that voters present photo identification at the polls violates federal voting rights.
We've looked into varied claims about voting in Texas:
- In September 2013, Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson of Dallas said studies had shown voter fraud to be "non-existent in Texas." False: Records kept by the state specified 18 convictions, no-contest pleas or guilty pleas on voter fraud charges from 2002 through 2012. That’s not a lot of fraud, we agreed, but it still evidently occurred
- A month later, the League of Women Voters of Texas Education Fund said a photo ID would not be required of voters casting ballots by mail. True! But, we learned, there is a photo-ID element to federal law 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.
- Also in 2013, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott said "in reality," there had been no problems whatsoever with the Texas voter ID law. Mostly False: News stories revealed various if rare experiences that could be construed as problems, such as voters having to scramble to get the proper ID. There also was a surge in provisional (largely uncounted) ballots, though we did not determine whether the ID law was key to that.
- In September 2014, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis said her Republican foe, Greg Abbott, "heads up a party whose platform calls for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act." Mostly True, we concluded. She was right about the platform adopted by delegates to the Republican Party of Texas convention in June 2014. It says: "We urge that the Voter Rights Act of 1965, codified and updated in 1973, be repealed and not reauthorized." That provision appears, though, after another entry: "We support equal suffrage for all United States citizens of voting age who are not felons." But Abbott may or may not support repeal; he also isn’t his party’s chief, though it’s fair to suggest any governor has a role in guiding his or her state party.
- Around the same time, Abbott said that the FBI was investigating if people in the Rio Grande Valley were using cocaine to buy votes. Mostly True, we concluded, though Abbott could have clarified the alleged incidents occurred two years before and the investigation had yet to indicate anything about the voter ID law.In 2014,
- Most recently, we rated True a claim by Hillary Clinton that under the Texas ID law, you can vote by presenting a concealed-weapon license, but not a student ID. Wondering if a student ID element was ever part of the legislation that became the Texas law, we reviewed the varied versions of Senate Bill 14, authored by Sen. Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay and fellow Republicans that advanced in the 2011 legislative session. We found no "student" mentions. Language permitting a state license to carry a concealed handgun to be offered at the polls wasn’t in the original Fraser proposal; it was added, though, before the Senate sent the proposal to the House, legislative records show.