Fate of voter ID remains uncertain

The Texas attorney general announced Monday that the state of Texas filed suit in federal court for approval of its controversial voter ID law passed last spring.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires Texas to receive preclearance from the Department of Justice before implementing any laws that could affect voter participation. The law, which would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls, was supposed to take effect Jan. 1 but has been under review since July.

Those who do not have a government-issued ID can obtain an election ID from the Department of Public Safety for free. Nonetheless, if enforced, the voter ID requirement would discourage voter participation, particularly among students.

As it is, elections are not very well publicized and often catch students unaware. With the added hurdle of voter identification, students who show up to the polls with little knowledge of voting procedure — such as those voting in Texas for the first time — may not realize they must obtain an ID card deemed acceptable by the state to vote.

About 49 percent of registered voters between ages 18 and 24 — the lowest of any age group — voted in the 2008 presidential election, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Moreover, in the 2010 gubernatorial election, only 38 percent of registered voters in Texas showed up to the polls, according to the Texas Secretary of State's office. With already abysmal voter turnout, the state should minimize, not increase, the number of requirements to vote.

With the next election only two months away — the primary election is April 3 and early voting begins March 19 — the Justice Department should release its decision soon so the state has time to notify voters of any changes to voting procedure. Further delay will only push voter turnout from dismal to damaging.