Keep calm, vote on. That's the message behind new outreach efforts backed by Travis County and the city of Austin that aim to educate Texans on the new voter ID laws, which will require Texas voters to show an approved ID before voting at the polls this November.
"There are going to be folks in our state, who simply by virtue of not having a driver’s license with a photo on it, cannot vote," Austin City Council member Mike Martinez said.
The effort, launched today in the form of the website www.KeepCalmVoteOn.com, looks to clarify the new law by outlining the seven forms of identification that can be used at the polls and how you can go about obtaining a free Election Identification Certificate if you don't already have an ID that will work.
"We don't know how many people don't have the proper ID, and we don't know how many people need to update their names, and we don't know how many people are eligible for the disability exemptions,” Travis County voter registrar Bruce Elfant said.
Though Travis County doesn't have exact numbers, officials estimate 37,000 people across the county may not have what they need to vote.
"But we're going to do the best we can in the short period of time we have to get the word out to our community so they can be as best prepared for this election as possible,” Elfant said.
The Voter ID law was passed by state lawmakers in 2011. It was quickly challenged in court by people claiming the law disenfranchised minority and poor voters. But in June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a decades-old provision of the Voting Rights Act that required some states to get preclearance before making any changes to their voting laws.
That decision moved the law forward, but the legal battle isn't over yet. Another federal challenge against law has been filed, and the city of Austin is among the parties looking to appeal it.
"We believe that it creates a hindrance for folks trying to exercise their right to vote,” Martinez said. “We'll let the courts decide that, but we have officially joined as one of the parties in the lawsuit."
Those who support the law, including Gov. Rick Perry, say it's about maintaining voter integrity and curbing voter fraud.
Visit www.KeepCalmVoteOn.com for more information on what you'll need to vote. Those planning to participate in the Nov. 5 elections have until next Monday to register.