Legislative Report

Impeachment News for Texas Women  

Sylvia Rodriguez Garcia, elected in 2018 as one of the first two Latinas to represent Texas in Congress, has been chosen to serve as a House Impeachment Manager for the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate. “I take my responsibility seriously because we’re working to defend our Constitution at a pivotal moment in our democracy,” she said on Twitter.

It is gratifying to see a Texas Democratic woman appointed to such a crucial position in her first year in Congress. Rep. Garcia serves as the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 29th congressional district which covers much of eastern Houston. In 2013, she won a special election to represent Houston’s District 6 in the Texas Senate.

Previously, Ms. Garcia was elected the first Hispanic and first woman to be elected in her own right to the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. after serving as the City Controller and Director and Presiding Judge of the Houston Municipal System. Rep. Garcia’s experience as a lawyer and a judge were persuasive in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to appoint her as a House Impeachment Manager.

Early Your Texas Driver’s License is Your REAL ID and Voter ID

What is so special about this driver’s license? It is imprinted with a white star in a gold circle, designating this license as a REAL ID as well as a current Texas driver’s license. Since October 2016, Texans have been receiving notices that their driver’s licenses and person identification cards must be renewed, along with a list of documents such as birth certificates and verification of address, that have not been requested in the past. Many of our members have received these requests this year and expressed concern about the impact on voting.

The reason for the focus on your Texas driver’s license is the federal REAL ID Law passed by Congress way back in 2005 in response to the 9/11 attacks. The stated purpose of the REAL ID Law is to bring all state driver’s licensing up to a basic level of security to “combat terrorism, identity theft, and other crimes by strengthening the integrity, accuracy, and security of the driver license and identification card issuance process.”

Letters from the Texas DPS will request proof of identity, date of birth, social security number and primary residence address using verifiable documents. The REAL ID card also must have security features built into the card, and the DPS must have developed required procedures for protecting personal data provided by citizens.

The deadline for acquiring a REAL ID driver’s license or personal Identification with the star emblem is October 1, 2020. Persons who lack a REAL ID after the deadline will not be allowed to board a commercial airline in the U.S., enter a nuclear facility or enter a federal building unless they have a passport or travel card. Due to the deadline, the Texas DPS is sending notices to drivers who have a license that will expire after October 1, 2020 encouraging them to renew early through the REAL ID process.  

Our Texas Voter ID law will not change on October 1, 2020. Voters can still use their driver’s license or personal identification without the star as their government-issued photo ID after October 1, 2020 until it expires and even after it expires for a period of 4 years. If you are 70 or older, the expiration date does not matter as long as the government-issued ID is otherwise valid.

The intersection of Voter ID and REAL ID occurs when registered voters apply to renew their driver’s license or personal identification card either because it will soon expire or to meet the REAL ID deadline, and cannot produce the documentation required by the REAL ID Law. The REAL ID law could make it more difficult for some Texans who have been voting for decades to obtain the basic government-issued ID they have always used to enable them to vote. Issues over name changes and errors on birth certificates may create obstacles for citizens and voters. The DPS does offer an email address for contacting them if a birth certificate is not obtainable.

If the DPS already has your proof of citizenship and your verified Social Security number, you may be able to apply for a REAL ID online or on the phone. If not, you will have to appear in person and submit documentation. Instructions for applying to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for a certified copy of your birth certificate are presented on the website for the Texas DPS (dps.texas.gov).

A detailed list of the various documents in certain categories that are required by the REAL ID Law can be found on the web site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov). The bottom line is: you can still vote in the 2020 General Election with a Texas driver’s license that is not a REAL ID, according to current law, but the best bet for the future is to make sure you have a REAL ID.