Many of the lawsuits challenging voter ID laws in the states argue that they have an unequal impact on people of color and poor people.
Turns out, they can prevent pretty much anyone from voting — or at least make it lots more difficult.
Take Jim Wright of Texas. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because he used to be the Speaker of the House. That’s right, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — one of the most powerful people in the nation’s capital.
But because Wright, who’s now 90, no longer drives, his driver’s license has expired. And because he doesn’t have a valid driver’s license – notwithstanding the fact that he has other forms of photo identification, including his faculty ID card from Texas Christian University – he wasn’t allowed to get a voter ID card when he tried to do so on Nov. 1.
Unlike many, Wright has access to his birth certificate. He also has transportation. And he lives close to an office that distributes the voter ID cards.
Wright’s assistant, Norman Ritchson, tells me that Wright returned to the Texas Department of Public Safety office on Nov. 3, got his card, and will vote on Nov. 4.
But other older Americans may encounter obstacles that they can’t overcome as easily as Wright did.
“I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told a newspaper reporter after being sent away. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”
Ritchson agreed. “I’ve been thinking about the people who are in retirement homes,” she said. “I’ve read that this is the lowest early voter turnout in a long time and I wonder if this [ID requirement] is the cause. We’ve tried so hard to make voting easy, and now the Texas Legislature has made it harder by making you have a photo ID.”
Photo of Wright in the 1980s: Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives
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