Faithful Citizenship: Faithful citizens vote even in ‘off’ elections

By Barbara Budde

Columnist

This November there will be an election. For most of us the ballot will consist of Constitutional amendments placed there by the legislature. Cities and counties might have other local initiatives on the ballot, but we won’t be voting for any person holding office either at the state or federal level. This is what we call an "off" election year. As a result, many will decide not to vote. I hope that is not the case in the Catholic community. Faithful citizenship calls us to participate in the political process and to exercise the right and duty we have to vote.

I did a quick search of the last time there was an off-year election with Constitutional initiatives on the ballot and most counties in the state, including in our own diocese, had voter turn outs that were in the single digits. I want to commend Llano County for being the standout in our diocese. In 2011 they had more than 17 percent of eligible voters who actually voted in that off-year election. Honorable mention goes to Fayette and Brazos counties both of which had more than 15 percent of registered voters go to the polls and San Saba County, which had about 14.5 percent of registered voters who actually voted.

The great irony is that our country was founded by those who fought and died for the right of self-determination. We did not do it perfectly when the country was founded and we had to make many changes along the way – but voting is the cornerstone of democracy and in many instances we abdicate that precious right to vote.

This year the Voter ID law passed by the 2011 legislature is in effect. A voter registration card is no longer sufficient to vote. Every person will also need to show a valid picture ID. The list of acceptable IDs from the Secretary of State Office includes:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
  • U.S. military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • U.S. passport

The ID must be "current." The website says, "With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place." There is also a requirement that the name on the ID and on the voter registration list must be "substantially similar." There are guidelines to help election judges make determinations about what "substantially similar" means.

Please be aware that the Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS is free. However, any person who needs this identification because they may lack any of the others on the list must present proof of citizenship such as a certified birth certificate. Those are not free.

Any person who is over the age of 65 can apply to vote by mail. Clearly in this instance an ID cannot be required, so all seniors are able to vote by mail, but must apply. There are exemptions for persons with disabilities or persons who lost their ID due to natural disaster. Detailed information on these exemptions as well as "Frequently Asked Questions" are all available from the state at www.votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/need-id/.

Far too many of us exempt ourselves from the right and duty to vote. We can change that this year. Voter registration closes Oct. 7. Remember to register, remember your ID and remember to vote!

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