Dear Mr. Premack: I enjoyed your article on the new Texas Voter ID Law in the July 25 My Life section. I am 70 years old, and my wife is 62 and disabled. Neither of us has a driver’s license or any of the photo IDs that are required by the new law. We are registered voters. What are our options so that we can vote without difficulty in the upcoming election? – J.Q.
Option 1: Get a photo ID that complies with the law. You can obtain the Election Identification Certificate issued by the Department of Public Safety, or the Texas personal identification card issued by DPS. These are acceptable photo IDs and will enable you to vote.
Option 2: Your wife can apply for a disability exemption from the new law. She can apply with the county voter registrar, and must provide written documentation from Social Security establishing a recognized disability, or written documentation from the VA establishing a disability rating of at least 50 percent. Additionally, she must disclose to the voter registrar that she has no form of photo ID which is valid under the new law. The registrar will give her a voter registration certificate reflecting the disability exemption, and she will be allowed to vote upon presentation of that certificate (without the need for photo ID).
Option 3: You could both vote by mail. In order vote by mail, a registered voter must either be 1) planning to be away from the county on Election Day and during the entire early voting period for that election, OR 2) be in jail but still eligible to vote, OR 3) be age 65 or older on Election Day, OR 4) be disabled.
On that list, you qualify to vote by mail because you are 70 and your wife qualifies to vote by mail because she is disabled. Unlike the disability exemption discussed in Option 2, she will not have to present evidence of her disability when she submits her Application to vote by mail. Likewise, there is no requirement to present a photo ID in order to vote by mail. Instead, you submit a written Application for a mail-in ballot to the county elections department. The Application must be submitted between 60 days and 7 days before Election Day.
The Application for a mail-in ballot can be obtained online from the Texas Secretary of State. On the Application, you must disclose your name and address, your date of birth, the reason you are eligible to vote by mail, which election the ballot will cover, and if the election is a primary, you must declare your political party. You must sign the application. If you can only make a mark (not your signature) then there must be one witness who also signs the Application and who must disclose his/her address and relationship to you.
If you cannot sign and cannot make a mark on the Application, the witness must check a box so informing the election department, must sign the form, and must indicate that he/she acted as an assistant (unless the witness is also a close family member [parent, grandparent, spouse, child or sibling] or lives at the same address as the intended voter). Failure to disclose that an intended voter used an assistant is a Class A Misdemeanor.
Once you receive your ballot, you vote and then return the ballot by mail to the elections department. Your ballot must be received by the elections department before 7pm on Election Day. That does not mean “postmarked” before 7pm on Election Day, it means the ballot must be in the department’s hands before 7pm on Election Day. If it is returned late, your vote is not counted.
Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and a Five Star Wealth Manager (Texas Monthly Magazine 2009-2013) practicing estate planning and probate law in San Antonio.
Original Publication: San Antonio Express News, July 30, 2013