Long before she was a Harvard-educated attorney and a member of the state Senate, Wendy Davis was a divorced single mom who was holding down two jobs and raising a young daughter while attending Tarrant County Community College.
Davis recalled those experiences Tuesday as the Republican-controlled state Senate debated a controversial voter ID bill. Like other Democrats, she contended that SB14 threatens to disenfranchise the indigent, minorities and elderly by requiring voters to show a photo identification in order to vote.
"There was a time when I was indigent," the Fort Worth lawmaker told Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horsehoe Bay, as they debated the merits of the legislation. Had the law been in effect during her earlier days, Davis told Fraser, she "would have been quite challenged" in acquiring the documentation needed to exercise her right to vote.
Acceptable documents under the bill include a drivers license or personal identification card issued by the Department of Public Safety, a military identification card, a U.S. citizenship certficate and an unexpired passport. Citing her own experiences when was holding down two jobs, Davis said many low-income Texans do not have the time to leave work and stand in long lines, nor do they have the money to purchase the required documents.
"For people who have to take off at work it can be a very real problem," Davis said as she stood beside a chart illustrating the cost of supporting documents. "I'm afraid we're going to wind up disenfranchising legal citizens...who are going to be denied the right to vote."
Fraser responded by recalling times during his youth when he picked potatoes in California and cotton in West Texas. "I appreciate the story you just gave," he said. "There are a lot of people who can give (similar) stories." Fraser said he, like "a lot of people," nevertheless found time to get a drivers license.
The debate stirred comparisons to an exchange between the two lawmakers over voter ID in 2009 when Fraser asked Davis to speak up because "I have trouble hearing women's's voices." As she began Tuesday's discussion, Davis told Fraser: "I was going to ask if you could hear me."
Davis said later that she wove the personal anecdote into the debate because "we have to talk about the real-world impact" of legislation.
-- Dave Montgomery