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How the voter ID law was and was not enforced in Harris County

Greg does some investigative reporting on how the new voter ID law was actually applied in Harris County in the 2013 election.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

So what percentage of voters ended up signing an affidavit? … and what does it suggest about how the law was administered?

To get that answer, I obtained records from the Harris County Clerk and commenced tabulating the data. I’ll be spelling out some of these results in the days ahead. For now, here’s the big-ticket takeaway: voters in Harris County were qualified to vote by election workers in extremely different ways depending on the location that the voter voted at. In several locations, the law was followed in a manner as close to thorough as might be humanly possible. In others, it didn’t appear that election workers had gotten the figurative memo about the new law. In a plurality of Early Vote locations, the results were mixed.

For introductory purposes, a small sketch of the data: Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community Center in Spring Branch had signed affidavits from 0.43% (as in less than 1%) of its voters. Meanwhile, neighboring West Gray Multi-Service Center saw 15.1% of its voters sign affidavits. In other words: if you wanted to experience “no problem” with the law, then Sosa was the place for you to go vote. If you wish to subject yourself to more scrutiny by election workers, then head to West Gray. Discrepancies like this were rampant in Harris County. And I’m willing to guess that it’s not the way that architects of the law intended it to be administered.

What I find interesting about these results is that, for all intents and purposes, nobody can say for certain that the new law was followed in any kind of meaningful way. It’s that conclusion that makes it impossible to say “there was no problem” with the law since the law effectively wasn’t administered. I have little doubt that election workers knew to ask for a photo ID and that there may, indeed, be only the most minor of problems exhibited with this task during a low-turnout election. But if election workers weren’t checking the names on the ID against the names on the voting rolls, then there should be no assurance that they were doing anything meaningful with those IDs.

Through the remainder of this week, I’ll be rolling out some of the findings, and raw data to demonstrate how this played out in Harris County. Ultimately, I think there are findings that are likely to concern both advocates of the law as well as opponents. And while I’m not a believer in the necessity of the law, I think there are several things to review before the law goes full scale in a Presidential year.

Read the whole thing. Greg was an Election Clerk this year, so he got that training he’s talking about, and he is a staffer for State Rep. Gene Wu, so he’s in a position to help influence any potential changes to this law, assuming it doesn’t eventually get thrown out by the courts. For my own experience, I voted early twice at the West Gray location, once in the November election and once in the December runoff. In November I showed my ID and voted as always, no muss and no fuss. In December, the election clerk at West Gray noticed that my voter reg card has my full middle name and my “III” suffix while my drivers license has just my middle initial and no suffix, and had me sign the affidavit. So even at the same location, there were variations. I look forward to seeing the rest of Greg’s data.

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  1. Melissia says:

    I wonder if there’s a correlation between parts of the county where there were more minorities and those places where the ID was checked more? I don’t live in Harris County so I can’t corroborate the names like that.

  2. Greg Wythe says:


    There doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation. The results are mixed, with some heavy-R and heavy-D locations being at both extremes. Today’s post is up with links to a PDF of the spreadsheet showing the results by location and day.

    – G