Friday, March 16, 2012

Did the Driver Responsibility Surcharge cause Texas' voter ID law to be rejected?

Aside from redistricting, the big electoral news recently was the Justice Department's decision to oppose implementation of Texas' new "voter ID" statute, leading the state to launch its own counter-challenge to the Voting Rights Act. I don't care to debate the merits of the DOJ decision - which was based on alleged discriminatory outcomes - but instead am interested in WHY so many Texans lack a state-issued photo ID? Pondering that subject leads to a corollary question: Did the Driver Responsibility Surcharge cause Texas' voter ID law to be rejected? As Lise Olsen reported in the Houston Chronicle:
as many as 18 percent of all registered voters across Texas apparently [lack] state government-issued photo IDs to match their voter registration cards, according to records obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Texas secretary of state officials did not find matching 2012 driver's licenses or state-issued photo IDs for 2.4 million of the state's 12.8 million registered voters, though all but about 800,000 of those voters supplied a valid identification number when they first registered to vote. The findings come from documents submitted by the state to the U.S. Department of Justice as part of an ongoing review of the new voter ID law.

The "matching" exercises conducted by the state showed up to 22 percent of Bexar County voters apparently lacked the IDs, as well as 20 percent in Dallas County and 19 percent in Harris County, based on the Chronicle's review of the state data.
Here's the Chronicle's summary of the rate of voters with no state ID in selected larger counties:

Why do so many adult Texans lack ID? In part because 2 million drivers have had their drivers licenses revoked because of nonpayment of the Driver Responsibility Surcharge, which readers will recall is a stiff civil penalty tacked on top of any fines, punishments or court costs stemming from certain traffic offenses, including  driving without a license, driving without insurance, "point" accumulation, and DWI. Of those, around 1.2 million have not had their licenses reinstated, which would explain why so many voters may have had a DL number when they registered to vote but don't now. If 2.4 million Texas voters lack state ID, and all but 800,000 had IDs when they registered, then the Driver Responsibility Surcharge could account for as much as three-quarters (1.2 out of 1.6 million) of those who had ID when they registered to vote but do not today.

I'd love to see the state run another matching program to find out how many voters without a current ID have defaulted on one or more Driver Responsibility Surcharges. This redundant civil penalty has inflicted untold misery on drivers who owe it, and judges blame the surcharge for Texas' declining DWI conviction rate. Now it appears the surcharge is a major contributor to Texas' Voter ID law being challenged. Meanwhile the Lege is using most of the "dedicated" funds from the surcharge to balance the budget instead of dispensing it to trauma center hospitals as they promised.

At this point, the surcharge has not only failed at all its goals - both in the enforcement realm and providing revenue for trauma hospitals - it is now interfering with other state goals like DWI enforcement and the Voter ID law. How many negative consequences must the state suffer from this ill-conceived revenue-generation scheme before the Legislature finally repeals it?

Via Kuff.


Anonymous said...

If ones Texas DL is suspended, does that prevent that person from getting the Texas DPS issued ID ONLY card? They are different cards.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yes, they could get a state ID, though for voting purposes the $16 fee amounts to a poll tax, which is why the bill would allow for free ID for voting purposes. Many could also, in theory, have applied for Amnesty or the Indigence program who did not.

But what recourse drivers with suspended licenses might have to get other ID or their license reinstated is irrelevant to the argument in the post. My hypothesis was that the surcharge is the reason so many who had valid drivers licenses when they registered to vote don't now. That hypothesis is a) testable and b) if true explains most of the described phenomenon.

I'm not looking to cast blame (except, perhaps, on the surcharge itself), I'm looking to explain the data.

Anonymous said...

I can see it now: "Drunks for Obama in 2012!" God help us if we have to deal with him and Eric Holder for another 4 years!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Only 3% of surcharges are for DWI, 8:10. A huge proportion of them are for no-insurance (since 1/4 of Texas drivers don't have any).

But the one that gets folks into an endless spiral is the surcharge for no drivers license. You lose your license, owe a surcharge, then are ticketed for no license and get another. All of a sudden it's like a Payday loan run amuck with fees stacked on fees, and folks of modest means just get snowed under by it.

Anyway, given Texas' voting patterns it's a good bet many if not most of those with surcharges, DWI or otherwise, would vote Republican.

Lee said...

Scott, so it is a coordinated attack by our current politicians on our voting rights to raise money and keep themselves in office?

Come on, Our authorities would never do that....(sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

"My hypothesis was that the surcharge is the reason so many who had valid drivers licenses when they registered to vote don't now."

You do not have to have a valid dl to REGISTER to vote. If a dl was used as id to actually vote, the dl does not have to be cuurent and can be expired. A lot of these surhcarged people do not surrender their dl and actually have it in their possession.

Another many of these surcharged people are convicted felons? How many are under the age of 18? How many are not US citizens?

Acceptable identification includes:
•a driver's license or personal identification card issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety or a similar document issued to the person by an agency of another state, regardless of whether the license or card has expired;
•a form of identification containing the person's photograph that establishes the person's identity;
•a birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes the person's identity;
•United States citizenship papers issued to the person;
•a United States passport issued to the person;
•official mail addressed to the person by name from a governmental entity;
•a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter; or
•any other form of identification prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:44, though some may, for a time, I don't think you can assume people will keep expired IDs ad infinitum, which is why the legislation envisions giving out free IDs for voting purposes.

Otherwise, as I said in the post, I don't care to debate the merits of Voter ID, which is a subject that's IMO overblown, politicized, and which immensely bores me. The question this post sought to answer is "why so many Texans lack a state-issued photo ID," and the surcharge appears to account for most of it.

These questions, however, were on point: "how many of these surcharged people are convicted felons? How many are under the age of 18? How many are not US citizens?"

In order, most aren't felons, and even if they are felons in Texas can vote once they're off supervision. The proportion under 18 is directly proportional to how many under 18 get tickets - some, but in the big picture a minority. As for not-US citizens, illegal immigrants can't get DLs, though some legal immigrants may have surcharges. Let's generously guesstimate that, collectively, those 3 groups knock off 200,000 from the 1.2 million figure - the surcharge still accounts for most of the voters without a current, valid ID.

If you're unhappy the Voter ID law wasn't approved by DOJ, consider pushing for repeal of the surcharge and maybe the 18% no-ID problem can be mitigated.

Anonymous said...

Not upset about the rejection of the Texas law. Don't think Texas should surcharge these folks after they have already paid or laid out a fine. That's double dipping in my view.

Yes, some of these surcharged folks don't have a Texas dl....but that was not the cause for the Texas law to be rejected.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

If the number of voters with photo IDs were 1.2 million higher, 8:28, you don't think it might change the calculation?

That 18% of voters without ID - much less the counties higher than 40% - is an awfully large number of folks. To the extent the surcharge has radically inflated those numbers, IMO it contributed directly to voter ID being rejected.

Anonymous said...

Probably not Grits. There are other acceptable forms of ID besides the DL.

Considering the history of voter apathy in this country and Texas, how many of that 18%-40% take time to vote?

I'd darn sure like to see their voting history, not who they voted for, but how many times they've actually voted in any election.

benbshaw said...

Regarding Voter Registration, there is no reason why there even be a separate step necessary to vote. Should be citizenship = right to vote. If there are classes of citizens who can't vote, such as those under supervision in the parole system, then their name would appear on a list.

But, from the perspective of Declaration of Independence, voting is a right, not a privilege handed out by the state. The practice of creating filters to prevent certain people from not voted started with the U.S. Constitution itself where non-property owners, women, slaves were not allowed to vote. A series of Constitutional Amendments over time have extended the right to vote to more and more classes of people. But, the same forces of a privileged few have worked to use voting laws to achieve the same end. Texas and the Southern States have still not given up their attraction to a class-based system of government. That is why Texas must continue to be under the Voting Rights Act until the last of the wannabe aristocrats die off or the People wake up and figure out who is holding them down.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:13, surely you know that "they wouldn't have voted anyway" is not a legitimate argument under the Voting Rights Act. If it makes you feel better about yourself to wallow in such fantasies, fine. As I said, I don't care to debate the merits of Voter ID. But on the question of WHY so many Texans don't have ID, you've offered nothing but an opinion free from argument to support your case. What do YOU think is the reason so many Texans don't have ID, if not the Driver Responsibility Surcharge?

Anonymous said...

"What do YOU think is the reason so many Texans don't have ID, if not the Driver Responsibility Surcharge?"

You have this notion that because a person does not have a DL that they have no ID. You are off the mark.

There are many other sufficient forms of ID other than DL's. Employee ID, student ID, etc.

We just going to have to agree to disagree. You fail to accept the reality that a form of identification containing the person's photograph, not just DL's, that establishes the person's identity, can be used for ID purposes.

The surcharge law certainly has caused Texans to lose their DL but the loss of ones DL has nothing to do with your hypothesis.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:38: I accept that there are other forms of ID, but you fail to accept that for MOST adults, the DL is their primary form of photo ID. There are others, but DLs are by far the most common. When most folks lose their DL they have no other photo ID. Pretending otherwise won't make the law any more viable, so I'm not sure what you think you gain by failing to acknowledge reality.

The Fishing Physicist said...

The DRSC is a load of crap. Even Leo Berman who is about as hardcore a conservative as there is in the Texas Ledge has sponsored a bill to eliminate the DRSC. The DRSC does NOTHING to promote driver responsibility. It is a tax pure and simple. The DRSC makes the classic ‘law & order’ mistake of assuming that ‘getting tough’ makes for good policy when it in point of fact does NOT. Indeed, it makes for extremely poor policy. Punishment is a means to an end. When the means does NOT yield the desired end then that means is ineffective, and servers NO useful purpose, and thus ought to be rendered void. Getting ‘tough on crime’ ought as any policy ought to serve a purpose. If it fails to serve that purpose then it is by definition a FAILED policy, and FAILED policies need to be eliminated. This so that a different policy, or policies can be adopted that ACTUALLY are effective in serving the desired purpose.

Far too many folk simply insist upon whipping the dead horse of a FAILED policy as a matter of not losing face, or being able to admit that policy/policies that they had supported were wrong as a matter of stubborn pride.

Anonymous said...

The District attorney Ligon in Montgomery County loves that surcharge. MC will ARREST you, put you in jail and publish a photo of you in jail clothes for driving with suspended license. They are making big bucks. And using his personal little Montgomery County rag to humiliate you on top of putting you further into debt. How can you pay if you can't drive to work?

A Texas PO said...

I've seen many probationers who do not have a photo ID because they don't have a social security card and/or a birth certificate, both now required by federal mandate in order to obtain a valid state DL/ID. Without a photo ID, it's very difficult to get either a SS card or birth certificate, which only exacerbates the problem. Seems to me that a really good way to compromise on this entire voter ID debacle is for the state to start issuing voter registration cards that have a photo on them. I've seen this in Puerto Rico, so I don't see why Texas can't get out of the 19th century and consider this as well.

Ten Pee Em said...

Really interesting juxtaposition of two public policies, Grits. Could we say this was an unintended (positive or otherwise, depending on your view) consequence of the DRP?

In either case, I like your argument that those calling loudest for Voter ID should consider first repealing the DRP/surcharge payday loan cycle in order to help pave the way. Gives a strong impetus to clean up a program long overdue for a closer look.

Sam said...

I am a 36 year old man, who goes to church, loves my wife and children, and now every day I gamble with 180 days in jail to make the trek to work to make 25% of what I used to make before I was laid off in 2008. I have 4 children that are all good in sports 16, 11, 10, and 7 and I can barely keep us off the streets when before we had a nice 2400 SQ/FT home 4/2.5/2 and now we live in a house in the same neighborhood that I can't afford. WHY would anyone bring about such a law in the middle of a war and when the ENTIRE nation's economy was falling apart at the seams? You know what my crime was? Two days before I moved to AZ for a job that lasted 2 years I got a no insurance ticket after getting pulled over for an out brake light I left my new insurance card at home, forgot, and shook it off as I would take care of it like any normal citizen. I paid the ticket because I couldn't come to Texas to fight it because I was moving. Long story short, I got laid off, moved back to Texas. I found a job, did well, but got laid off due to economic reasons with the company, so I started my own business and failed to secure funding. I lost my house, cars, and everything that I had promised my family was their home. Young and stupid I was led to believe I could work hard and achieve anything. So I found a place to rent, a misused home in the same neighborhood, but rent $50 higher than my mortgage and struggling, asking my parents for money to get by. I get a notice in the mail for a ticket, I thought, and so I contacted local agencies (granted I used to get tickets years ago when I was young, but I don't speed or anything like that)to make sure I didn't have a ticket that slipped through the cracks...I didn't and thought it must be some scam, since it wasn't from the state of Texas but from what looked like a collection agency of some sort, so I dismissed the notion and went on about my business. So here I am underemployed, living now 30 miles out of Dallas (where I moved when I could afford to) struggling with a vehicle that will not pass inspection, I get pulled over repetitively and the officers are nice enough not to take me to jail for driving with no license, no insurance which I can't get without a license, and no inspection because I don't have insurance. They were nice enough to give me tickets for which I cannot pay either, for which I will be arrested at home, at work, or driving with my children in the car (despite telling them that only bad people who do bad things go to jail), and in the end MORE SURCHARGES I CANT PAY. The old system worked. People make bad choices, but other people get hurt and sometimes killed in the fray of those choices, but that, ladies and gentlemen is the fragile circle of life. You cannot fix the natural course of humanity. You can create systems and most will follow or try, but there will always be someone there to fail it, misuse it, or beat it. I am what I consider to be an average American with a decent IQ and unfortunately only one year of college. I am struggling to recover from this one piece of legislation that has sliced me at the ankles and left me to die and take my kids with me to the poor house and I have no recourse, now only making $10.50 an hour I can't even afford to live or put my wife to work because of where we live...Is the inner city the reset button for humans now. Do I need to move to apartment in a bad neighborhood and subject my children to dangerous things they are not accustomed to just so I can ride a bus to work and subsist? These are the realities of the Texans that are affected. What shall we do?

Anonymous said...

does anyone know if this surcharge has been or is being challenged in a court?

Anonymous said...

I HATE TEXAS! I was arrested tonight because of a STUPID SURCHARGE caused my license to become suspended a month ago, unbeknownst to ME! Within a month I was arrested! I was pulled over because 1 headlight was dimmer than the other!! I Lived in Wisconsin for 20+ years. NEVER any problems OR tickets..NONE..AT ALL! AND NOW in TEXAS at age 47 im being HANDCUFFED, fingerprinted,peeing in a toilet with a camera DIRECTLY over it, given a wool blanket and a kindergarten mat to sleep on,on a filthy floor & put in a HOLDING Tank for 6 HOURS BEFORE BEING ASSESSED A $2500 BOND!Did I mention with 3 young ladies "tripping on drugs!" After the raid from the Task Force!!
REALLY TEXAS LAW MAKERS!?!? And u people really wonder why society is going Postal? IF im going to be treated like a criminal, lets make sure a REAL CRIME occurrs! Driving unknowingly on an INVALID license when the traffic violations are paid in full,resulting in an ARREST, IS INSANE!!! WTH were yall thinking? WERE YOU THINKING OR WAS THE MONEY DOING THE TALKING?? Lastly IF you're going to let the lobbyist dictate, then let them make INSURANCE affordable for ALL. Not just the guy who has a combined income of 60,000-100,000 a year, How about the single Moms with a houseful of teen drivers making 28,000 a year? Remember some of us live in the REAL WORLD, not all of us live "elite lives" with silver spoons feeding our taste pallets! THIS LAW NEEDS TO BE ABOLISHED!!ASAP!!!

Anonymous said...

Iv'e been driving without a license for 6 Years, thanks to this program. I have been ticketed over 10 times and refuse to comply. This is unconstitutional. Its easier to pay the courts 50 bucks a month in payment plans for the rest of my life and stay out of jail. Iv'e lost faith in my country because of this program. I refuse to Pay MSB anything

Anonymous said...

so what do we do to fix this. I also have surcharges and would like to know how to get rid of these. It is impossible. Im Brian Carter and im 25 someone needs to figure out how the small time guy can beat this. Because i dont have the extra money and i didnt get a dwi i had insurance but did not have the updated card..... please help with this

Anonymous said...

And here is the kicker folks. The people you have to pay these surcharges to is Municipal Services Bureau (MSB). MSB is not even a government entity. It's a PRIVATE company. It's real name is Gila Corp. So the state is contracting the work and PAYING a company to collect these funds. Seems a bit inefficient.

Then to top that off the funds arn't going to where they were intended. And last but not least HOW does this "responsiblity program" make drivers resposible. It would make more sense if they charged you to force insurance on people. But hey, what do I know? I'm just the guy in 99%.

Anonymous said...

Son of a bitch, they did it to themselves! Republicans actually did something contrary to their own nefarious political purposes! Republicans do nor raise taxes...

.....they just raise fees.

annoymous said...

Insurance is available to someone without a valid DL.