Testimony concluded this month in a federal court case over the state’s voter ID law, which requires voters to present photo identification. Now, opponents and supporters of the legislation await an opinion on whether all eligible Texans would have equal opportunity to vote under the new law.
A decision is expected by Aug. 31 if the law is to be implemented for the November election. If preclearance is granted, the state has promised to issue free “election identification certificates," forms of photo ID for use only in voting, at Department of Public Safety drivers license offices. But opponents argue that some Texas voters, such as those in rural areas, would be forced to drive long distances to get to those offices and that public transportation to some offices is unavailable, making it difficult for many to obtain the identification needed to vote.
But during last year’s special legislative session, state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who co-authored the voter ID law, helped to secure more funding to improve DPS services.
The funding has been used to improve existing offices, including the addition of queuing systems in 59 of the busiest driver’s license centers and the implementation of credit card payment systems. An additional 260 employees were authorized, including staff for six new “mega centers” planned to help meet demand in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Four of those are expected to be open by the end of September.
Fourteen rural location offices have also been updated and reopened.
Williams said he expected the issuance of election ID certificates to have “minimal” impact on wait times at the offices.
Still, a report released this month by the Brennan Center for Justice, which intervened in the case on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, maintained that “free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters.”
Using the map: Hover over a location's icon to see more information about it in the pop-up in the top, right corner of the map. Black buildings represent DPS offices that are open as of July 24, and red buildings represent offices that are closed.