My Experience Dealing with the Poll Tax I Must Pay Before I Can Vote in Texas

Election day is quickly approaching, and all over the country there’s talk of strict new voter ID laws that have been passed in many Republican-controlled states. And as it just so happens, I live in Texas; one of the many states that have passed these new strict voter ID laws.

Well, by complete and total accident my current drivers license fell off my desk and landed perfectly into the shredder sitting right beside it on the floor. So here I sit, just over a week away from election day, with no valid ID.

So I thought I’d go about seeing how a citizen such as myself might obtain a valid form of ID so that I can vote on November 4th.

Oh, but I don’t want to pay anything. Because as pretty much everybody knows, poll taxes are illegal.

My desire to not pay for my right to vote immediately rules out ordering another copy of my driver’s license, obtaining a basic government issued personal ID card, a passport or getting a concealed weapons license, because all of those options cost money. I’m also not in the military so that’s clearly not an option either.

I was left with only one other option offered on the website: the Texas Election Identification Certificate. It’s the only free option on their list.

So the next logical step was to see how I might go about obtaining one of these fine election identification certificates.

Ah, but there’s the catch. To get one of these cards, you must have some proof of birth (aka a birth certificate). And as I don’t really feel like traveling to my mother’s house to obtain a copy of mine, the only option that leaves me with is to purchase one myself, because getting a copy of my birth certificate isn’t free either.

This all leaves me in quite a conundrum.

I want to vote, but due to a freakish accident my driver’s license was destroyed after it fell into the shredder sitting next to my desk. This, of course, has left me without a valid form of ID, which is now a requirement to vote here in Texas. And it seems the only way for me to obtain the proper identification to vote would be to either purchase a new driver’s license, a government issued personal ID card, a passport or get a concealed handgun license. I also have the option to pay for a copy of my birth certificate so that I’ll have the proper paperwork to qualify for a “no charge” election identification certificate; something that’s not actually “free” considering getting a copy of my birth certificate requires that I pay a fee, and I must have my birth certificate in order to obtain the EIC.

Now I know there are some programs that certain Texans can essentially jump through hoops to qualify for, that can wave some of the fees for these items. But those programs are reserved for people with very low incomes, and I don’t qualify for them.

Besides, a person’s income bracket should have nothing to do with whether or not they are required to pay some kind of fee in order to exercise their right to vote.

So when it comes right down to it, I have no choice. If I want to vote this year, I either need to pay whatever fees are required for whichever form of identification I choose to get, or I simply won’t be allowed to vote.

In other words, as a born and bred American citizen, I cannot vote this year unless I pay some kind of fee for the right to do so.

And that, my friends, is how Republicans have found a way to charge a poll tax.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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