Bruce Elfant

Expected low voter turnout in Tuesday’s election might result in an inability to effectively assess the impact of Texas’ new voter ID law, according to Travis County officials.

“Is this election going to be an adequate trial run for us to really see what kind of voter ID issues we’re going to have, or is the turnout so low that it’s really not going to tell us the whole story?” Travis County Tax Assessor Bruce Elfant said. “We just don’t know.”

In the early voting period, between Oct. 21 and Nov. 1, voter turnout included only 5 percent of registered voters, Elfant said. 

One concern with the new voter ID law is that it will prohibit registered voters without acceptable IDs from voting, Elfant said. A list released by the secretary of state names 37,000
registered voters in Travis County who do not have state-issued forms of identification, Elfant said.

Elfant said 20 percent of early voters had to sign affidavits confirming their identity, a lower percentage than he had predicted.

“Some people have made a squawk about that, but … you don’t have to vote provisionally, so I don’t think that’s a serious issue,” Elfant said.

Voting provisionally means people who do not present a valid form of ID can still vote, but the vote won’t count unless they return within six business days with an acceptable form
of ID.

In Travis County, four people have cast provisional ballots because they did not have the right form of ID, Elfant said. 

“My concern is for every 100 people who cast a provisional ballot, how many are going to come back and cure it?” Elfant said. “We don’t have 100 people who have cast a provisional ballot so it’s not a significant issue right now, but next year in the governor’s race, who knows what it’s going to look like when you have 10 times the people voting?”

Renee Frederick, a Plan II and human development and family sciences sophomore, said she was concerned about how the voter ID law would affect her because her driver’s license and her voter registration card have different addresses.

“I was worried my ID wasn’t going to match the address that I was registered in,” Frederick said. “I wanted to vote in Austin, but my ID has an address in Houston.”

Nathan Roberts, Hook the Vote agency assistant director, said low voter turnout also demonstrates a problem of community apathy.

“There is a misconception that because a student is only here for a certain amount of semesters, they shouldn’t participate in decisions being made about this area,” Roberts said. “I think students should pay more attention to local issues because even if the outcome won’t affect them, odds are it will affect future students who won’t have had the opportunity to cast a vote on the issue.”

Elfant said he is concerned about people’s lack of interest in this year’s election.

“I have a very grave concern for democracy when 90 percent are delegating to others,” Elfant said.

“I was worried my ID wasn’t going to match the address that I was registered in,” Frederick said. “I wanted to vote in Austin, but my ID has an address in Houston.”

Nathan Roberts, Hook the Vote agency assistant director, said low voter turnout also demonstrates a problem of community apathy.

“There is a misconception that because a student is only here for a certain amount of semesters, they shouldn’t participate in decisions being made about this area,” Roberts said. “I think students should pay more attention to local issues because even if the outcome won’t affect them, odds are it will affect future students who won’t have had the opportunity to cast a vote on the issue.”

Elfant said he is concerned about people’s lack of interest in this year’s election.

“I have a very grave concern for democracy when 90 percent are delegating to others,” Elfant said.