[This article now cross-published by Salon...]
Congratulations, Texas Republicans! Mission accomplished! Ya'll kept this guy from being able to cast his vote this year!...
The TX GOP has also kept a 93-year old veteran from being able to vote (because, ya know, fuck him and his "freedom") along with a whole bunch of others this year that we'll get to in a moment, thanks to their new polling place Photo ID law which was found to be both "purposefully discriminatory" and an "unconstitutional poll tax".
Unfortunately, despite the U.S. District Court judge's well-documented findings after a year-long trial process, the U.S. Supreme Court is allowing the law to be implemented this year anyway. Their apparent reason: the lower court struck down the law due to illegalities and unconstitutionalites of the Photo ID scheme, but that determination happened just too close to this year's elections to be allowed to stand this year.
But that 93-year old vet and the man pictured above, 45-year old Eric Lyndell Kennie, are hardly the only ones losing their right to vote in the Lone Star State election this year due to the Republican voter suppression scheme. The unconstitutional law, for now, replaces the state's previous Voter ID law which had already required every single voter to present an ID at the polls before voting. That's right, that was already the law since 2003, and during the trial, state Republicans were only able to demonstrate two cases of polling place impersonation over the past decade out of 20 million votes cast in the same period.
Nonetheless, with the new, much more draconian version of the law threatening some 600,000 legally registered voters who do not have the new type of ID required to vote, all sorts of disenfranchisement is already underway.
Let's start with Kennie's story, since it's both amazing and heart-breaking, even if, we fear, not particularly unusual right about now...
As reported by Ed Pilkington at the Guardian this week, Kennie has never left the state of Texas. He's never even ever left Austin, where he was born and raised. He's never had a driver's license, but he does have a state-issued personal ID card and a voter registration card. He has always used them --- or, at least used to --- when voting, since he's always tried to vote in every general election.
But now, neither his personal ID card, which is expired, or his voter registration card is acceptable for voting under the new law.
Kinnie has spent the last year trying and trying to get a supposedly "free" Election Identify Certificate (EIC) in order to vote. Yet, despite repeated trips to the TX Dept. of Public Safety (DPS) to obtain that "free" state-issued ID, Kinnie is still out of luck...
Each trip to the DPS office involved taking three buses, a journey that can stretch to a couple of hours. Then he had to stand in line, waiting for up to a further three hours to be seen, before finally making another two-hour schlep home.
Kennie was told he'd need to go to a different part of town ("another three-bus trek to the official records office") to get a birth certificate, which costs $23, and then get himself back to the DPS yet again if he wants that "free" ID. He only makes about $15 to $20 per day collecting cans, bottles and metal for recycling, so $23 (plus all the bus fare) is not easy.
Nonetheless, he made the trip, paid the poll tax for the birth certificate and then made the trip back to the DPS. Again. However...
Bad luck, Eric. Guess you should have thought of that when you were born. No voting this year for you.
The one thing he is not prepared to do is to give up the fight. Though he has admitted defeat this election cycle, he is determined to find a way through the mess and regain his vote.
"I do need to vote, I really do," he said. "It's too late for me, but this is for the next generation. They need us to get out the people who harm us and bring in folk who will make things a little better."
Kennie is hardly the only one having trouble exercising the right he had always enjoyed up until the Texas Republicans decided to take it away in their shameful drive to retain political power.
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU's School of Law has been detailing similar stories. Here are a sampling...
Even if he does have the money, he will need to go through the whole process of getting the documents and going to the office again, when he has already tried to vote once and gone to a DPS office twice. Mr. Garcia thinks it is unfair that he cannot vote with the documents he has. He was born here and he has an ID with his picture on it; it’s just expired. He has a voter registration card, and voted in past elections.
Ms. Watson stated that she has observed many other students having trouble voting.
He is unable to get around easily. Mr. McGriff got to the polls during early voting because Susan McMinn, an experienced election volunteer, gave him a ride. He brought with him his expired driver's license, his birth certificate, his voter registration card, and other documentation, but none were sufficient under Texas's new photo ID requirement.
"No one knows how many other voters are being turned away because of the draconian new law," the Brennan Center explains. "For example, one election official reported that in one day of early voting at a single site, seven voters were turned away because they had expired or insufficient ID."
Congratulations, Republicans! Those Americans who have died while fighting for and protecting democracy thank you very much for cherishing their memories.
UPDATE 11/3/2014: More on the "huge problem" students are now having voting in TX under the GOP's Photo ID voter suppression law.
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)