Texas Governor Greg Abbott [official website] signed a law Thursday night that significantly loosens voter identification requirements. Senate Bill 5 [materials, text] is intended to salvage portions of a 2011 law that was found to be discriminatory against minority voters [JURIST report] by a federal judge in April. The bill allows voters who lack a photo ID to produce other documents [Statesmen report] showing their name and address, such as a voter registration certificate, utility bill, government check or bank statement, to verify their identity. Those who rely on those documents as proof of identification must sign a “declaration of reasonable impediment” giving the reasons they were unable to acquire a state-issued photo ID. Voters who lie on the declaration will face criminal charges. The legislation was passed along with a separate bill [Texas Tribune report], House Bill 658 [materials, text], that enables the state to collect absentee ballots from residents in assisted living facilities and other nursing care homes. Instead of requesting an individual mail-in ballot, the new law requires care facilities that request five or more absentee ballots to have election judges from both parties deliver them to oversee and provide assistance with the voting process.
Since being signed into law in 2011 by former governor Rick Perry, SB 14 [text, materials] has been a contentious issue for the Texas legislature, citizens and judiciary. In February the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] introduced a motion to withdraw [JURIST report] from the case, and abruptly reversed its original stance that the bill was created with discriminatory intent. In January the US Supreme Court [official website] declined to hear an appeal [JURIST report] involving the law. In September a federal judge ordered Texas to revise its voter ID materials [JURIST report], as it had been found to not comply with an order to relax the law.