Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) signed a bill into law Friday morning that would require voters to present a photo identification before casting a ballot, capping a years-long legislative battle with Democrats, who allege the measure is a thinly-veiled attempt to suppress votes from their core constituencies.
The law contains a provision that will provide special voter ID cards free of charge to citizens who do not have a driver’s license, passport, military ID or concealed handgun license.
Voters who show up to polls with only their voter registration cards will be given six days to produce a photo ID, or their ballots will not be counted.
Perry suggested the law was no more complicated than “cashing a check down at the [grocery store] or applying for a library card down the street.”
The new rules would in effect limit the numbers of Democratic voters, according to research (PDF) carried out by New York University. The elderly, poor, immigrant, minority and student voting blocs all tend to lean Democratic. They also have the highest percentages of people without driver’s licenses or other photo IDs.
Democrats in Texas have been fighting these voter restrictions since Texas Republicans first proposed them in 2005. This year, however, they were unable to hold up the process thanks to an overwhelming Republican majority in the statehouse.
Republicans have long claimed the voter restrictions were needed to prevent liberal conspiracies to steal elections. Despite these claims, no evidence has been found that would indicate an organized effort to manipulate vote outcomes in any meaningful way.
The measure is almost certain to be challenged in court, according to investigative news magazine The Texas Observer.
During the signing ceremony, Perry also told reporters that he was considering running for president in 2012, reversing his long-held position that he would not seek the nation’s highest office.