Paper IDs can prove voting eligibility but not drinking age

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A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.
A “Vote” sign at the Lamar County Services Building, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 in Paris, Texas.

On Tuesday, I voted at the Flawn Academic Center for the mayoral runoff election. Early voting for this important race, as well as a few lower ballot contests, will run through Dec. 12. Unfortunately, the FAC will only be open for voting through Saturday, presumably because classes end Friday. Election Day will be on the last day of finals, Dec. 16, so students should take advantage of the opportunity to conveniently make their selections before that day.

During early voting ahead of November’s election, I had to wait in a short line at the FAC, but my experience Tuesday was totally different. I was in and out of the door in less than five minutes, and although the FAC was packed with students, no one else was at the voting booths. Granted, when compared to the November election, this ballot’s length was a tiny fraction of last month’s ballot, but this should practically be more of an incentive to vote; it took a mere 30 seconds to make my selections.

Aside from the FAC’s shortened early voting period and the unsurprising lack of student voters, perhaps what stuck out to me the most was the rather capricious way the enforcement of Texas’ contentious Voter ID Act was handled. Under the law, which the editorial board of this paper, as well as many — if not most — politically involved groups on campus vehemently oppose, all voters must present a valid, government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, passport or concealed handgun license. A student ID, even from a public university such as this one, is insufficient.

A few weeks ago, I misplaced my driver's license, so the DPS office gave me a temporary paper certificate. On Tuesday, the election judge accepted it. Despite the fact that these paper certificates are relatively easy to fake, I was permitted to vote (I had brought my passport just in case). These paper certificates are fairly unreliable; most bars on Sixth Street refuse to accept them as valid IDs. Accordingly, it looks like the ostensible integrity of our voting system is more liberal than that of bars downtown.

All this is not to say that the election judge shouldn't have taken that piece of paper, and I don’t think someone would forge a fake temporary driver’s license in order to vote. Rather, it is to illustrate just how unnecessary and illogical the underlying law requiring all this fuss is.