Voter ID debate begins in Texas Senate

UPDATE: With Democrats resigned to lose, the Texas Senate has begun debating a Republican-backed bill to require most Texans to present a photo ID before voting.

The legislation has already cleared a committee of all senators and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Republicans say the measure is needed to prevent fraud. Democrats say it's more about keeping voters - their voters - away from the polls.

Republicans had initially planned to bring up the bill late Wednesday night, but Democrats agreed to suspend regular procedures so it could be taken up earlier in the day.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Previously Posted:

The voter ID legislation continues to move forward as Senate Republicans work to push it through. The legislation would require Texans to show photo identification to vote. Democrats and minority groups argue that the bill would create one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. While Republicans maintain the measure would prevent fraud, Democrats also say it's more about keeping voters, their voters, away from the polls.

The legislation passed along partisan lines in a committee made up of all the senators and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Tuesday. Senators heard testimony from witnesses on both sides of the issue before voting 20-12 to recommend Senate passage. A full floor debate is expected to begin today, when senators plan to consider at least 26 Democratic amendments and move toward a final vote, which is likely to come well after midnight.

Senate Democrats believe the bill will pass, as Republicans hold a 19-12 majority. Democrats say the legislation will negatively impact minorities, elderly voters and the disabled - who may not have IDs deemed acceptable under the bill's provisions. They also say there is little evidence of the fraud Republicans say they are trying to stop.

Anita Privett of the non-partisan Texas League of Women Voters said the bill would erect needless hurdles for voters in a state where apathy is a larger problem that any electoral shenanigans.

"The real voting problem is not potential voter impersonation but low voter turnout," she said.

The bill requires voters to present a valid form of state or federally issued photo identification. A driver's license, personal ID card, military ID, or passport would be accepted.

Unlike the measure two years ago, the new bill does not allow someone to present two other forms of non-photo ID to prove who they are. The current draft of the bill would not change the mail-in and absentee ballot process. Voters who could not produce ID would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot and then have six days to return with a proper ID. Voters 70 and older would be exempt. In 2009, Democrats blocked a version of the voter ID bill, but this bill is said to be a tougher version than the previous one that was blocked.

Texas isn't alone when it comes to requiring photo ID for voters. If the bill is passed the Lone Star State would become the ninth state to require such identification.

What do you think about the voter ID bill, is it a waste of time? Do you believe such a bill needs to be in place? Would it prevent you from heading to the polls? Leave us your comments, and vote in our web poll.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.