Former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright said he was denied a state ID card just before Election Day, which will be the first test of Texas' new voter ID law requiring many voters to obtain the proper documents.
Wright told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he visited a Texas Department of Public Safety office Saturday to obtain the necessary ID certificate to vote Tuesday. But his old driver's license, which expired three years ago, and his university faculty ID card weren't enough, he said.
"Nobody was ugly to us, but they insisted that they wouldn't give me an ID," Wright said.
He's since arranged to get a valid voter ID in time for the election by presenting a certified copy of his birth certificate. But Wright, the 90-year-old Democrat who served 34 years in Congress, said he wondered about others who weren't able to get IDs.
"I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won't dramatically reduce the number of people who vote," Wright said. "I think they will reduce the number to some extent."
Election officials say voters who don't have ID can cast a provisional ballot, get the correct ID and show proof to local election officials by Nov. 12.
"We want to make sure that every eligible Texan who wants to cast a ballot can," said Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state's office. "We want to help any Texan who needs additional information."
The law will require election judges for the first time to check one of seven government-issued photo ID cards before allowing someone to vote. Whenever there is a mismatch between the election rolls and the ID, an election judge will decide if the information is "substantially similar" enough to allow them to cast a regular ballot.
Supporters say the law stops election fraud, while opponents say it disenfranchises the poor and elderly who can't afford to obtain IDs.
More than 5 percent of voters in Texas may not have a valid ID to vote, according to statistics obtained by The Associated Press. Disproportionate numbers of these people live in counties with high poverty rates and large percentages of minorities.