Recently, members of the TSU student NAACP chapter, along with the Houston Area Urban League Young Professionals, hosted a forum on the campus of Texas Southern University to discuss the new law, its implications and what steps can be taken to ensure that those impacted by the law will still have access to the polls in upcoming elections.
The distinguished panel of speakers included members from the Texas League of Women Voters, state and federal elected officials, the Texas League of Young Voters and community leaders.
For those who may not know, there are many new stipulations in the Voter ID law. Among them are rules stating that college students can no longer use their school ID as qualifying identification to vote. The new law also says that state workers who have ID’s from a state employer are also prohibited from using that ID for voting purposes. Fortunately, given the apparent litany of stipulations prohibiting individuals from the polls, the law has not been implemented in Texas and is currently being reviewed by the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
Should the law gain passage, these organizations and city leaders have worked to ensure their communities are informed on how to move forward. Recently, I spoke with one of the panelists, Claude Foster, Executive Committee Board Member of the NAACP Houston Branch, to get some more insight on the evening’s forum.
Q: Tell me a bit about this forum and its importance.
A: I think the purpose of this meeting is to help young people understand the law, what the law means, how it impacts their right to vote, and give them strategies to vote with the least restrictions or difficulties possible.
Q: What do you hope people really walked away with as a result of the information presented?
A: One, that the act that was passed was DIRECTLY targeted at their right to vote. And if they understand that, I think the reality will set in, and they will understand that they have to take all the actions. [Two] don’t wait on the Justice Department. Don’t wait for someone to tell us. Go out there and get whatever documents they need, so when they show up at the polls they can vote.
Q: Did you find it surprising that this law passed as quickly as it did?
A: No; because, like I said, it was a law targeted towards us. You know the NAACP is non-partisan, but the Republicans, when they got in power–this is about politics too. And, they know people of color tend to vote Democratic, not because of party, but because of policy. And, their whole focus was to stop those folks that they believe–that they know–would probably vote Democratic, to prevent them from voting.
Q: What type of impact do you think the law will have on the communities should it be cleared in the Department of Justice?
A: Well, the law has been passed already. It hasn’t been implemented yet because we’re waiting on the Justice Department. But, you can see from the discussions tonight and the number of fact sheets that have been provided from different leaders, different politicians, that the law has already caused mass confusion. Because people don’t know what it is–don’t know what the requirements are. One politician is saying one thing, and another one is saying another. The elections office is waiting [un]til the law’s approved before they even notify you on what you need to do; so I think that there is enough confusion out there already. So, the law has already made an impact, and its not good.
The implications of the new Voter ID law are huge. Be sure to stay tuned as further developments arise.