Congratulations, Texas Republicans! Mission accomplished! Ya'll kept Eric Lyndell Kennie from being able to cast his vote this year!
The Texas 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 named above, 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...
He presented them with his old personal ID card --- issued by the DPS itself and with his photo on it --- but because it is more than 60 days expired (it ran out in 2000) they didn't accept it. Next he showed them an electricity bill, and after that a cable TV bill, but on each occasion they said it didn't cut muster and turned him away.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...
When he took it to the DPS (another three buses there, three buses back, another two hours waiting in line) they told him that the name on the birth certificate didn't match the name on his voter registration card. The birth certificate has him down as Eric Caruthers - his mother's maiden name - even though his parents were married at the time he was born.
Bad luck, Eric. Guess you should have thought of that when you were born. No voting this year for you.
In Eric Kennie's case, there is no clear way out of the morass. He could go to court and ask for the name on his birth certificate to be changed to correct the error, but that would take hiring a lawyer for a fee that he could not afford.
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...
Jesus Garcia was born in Texas and lives in Mercedes. He was unable to vote with his driver’s license, which expired about a year ago. He went to the Weslaco Department of Public Safety (DPS) office twice and both times was unable to get an ID. His birth certificate was stolen and he does not have a copy. He wants to get identification, but to get both a replacement birth certificate and a new ID would be more than $30 combined. He is working a lot of hours, but money is tight. With rent, water, electricity, and everything else, Mr. Garcia is not sure he will be able to afford those documents, much less before the election.
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.
Krystal Watson is a student at Wiley College in Texas, a historically black college. She is originally from Louisiana and has voted in past elections in Texas. This year, she signed up as a deputy registrar and registered about 100 people to vote. The person who deputized her told her the registration rules but not about the new voter ID requirement. When she herself went to vote, she was not allowed to cast a ballot because she had a Louisiana driver’s license and a Wiley College ID, but not the ID required by the law.
Ms. Watson stated that she has observed many other students having trouble voting.
Mr. R is an American in his 30s who lives in the small southern Texas town of Edcouch. He and his wife were both turned away from the polls last week because they do not have satisfactory identification under the new ID law. Mr. R had a driver's license that was valid until 2015, but it was taken away from him in connection with a DUI. Mr. R tried to use a driver's license that expired in 2009 - which he had used successfully to vote at the same polling location the last time he voted - as identification. This time, when he went to the polls during early voting, he was told, "You can't vote with this card."
Esmeralda Torres is a disabled American who lives in Elsa. She first learned about the new ID law when she tried to vote. She was blocked because she didn't have acceptable ID. Her disabilities preclude her from driving and make it hard for her to get around. Ms. Torres had previously tried to get an ID but had been rejected because she lived with her sister and had few documents containing both her name and her physical address.
Olester McGriff, an African-American man, lives in Dallas. He has voted in several Texas elections. This year when he went to the polls he was unable to vote due to the new photo ID law. Mr. McGriff had a kidney transplant and can no longer drive; his driver's license expired in 2008. He tried to get an ID twice prior to voting. In May, he visited an office in Grand Prairie and was told he could not get an ID because he was outside of Dallas County. In July, he visited an office in Irving and was told they were out of IDs and would have to come back another day.
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.
Gary Gross has been serving as a get-out-the-vote volunteer, giving voters rides to the polls during early voting. He encountered a voter who could not meet the new photo ID requirement. Even after Mr. Gross spent more than an hour trying to help the voter find out the rules from election officials, the voter was unable to cast a ballot or get the identification he needed. The voter's driver's license expired in March - there was no question as to the voter's identity, but the ID did not count. Through Mr. Gross' help, the voter found out he is theoretically eligible for a "free" election identification certificate, but the voter does not have a birth certificate, so he lacks the documentation he needs to get the EIC.
"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.