Local groups educating voters and urging registration

With only about 50 days until voters choose their next president, groups in Austin are doing everything they can to get people registered.

The Austin League of Women Voters spent Sunday afternoon educating people about what they need to do so that their vote counts.

In July, a federal appeals court ruled Texas' Voter ID Law violates the voting rights act and has ordered changes before the November election. Those changes could make it easier for many voters to cast a ballot by allowing people to use forms of ID that were restricted by the Voter ID Law.

“Every election is an important election,” said Austin League of Women Voters President Cinde Weatherby.

Typically, presidential elections draw more people to the polls than local or state elections.

This year, presidential primary elections saw a very large turnout and experts expect the same will be true in November.

“It's a big election, a lot of people would say historic, especially with the presidential, but all of the races are important because we're electing members to congress and to the Texas legislature and local,” said Julie Parken, membership co-chair at the Austin League of Women Voters.

There are some changes at polling locations in Texas as the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Voter ID Law that was passed in 2011.

“There were a lot of people who didn't have a photo ID who were registered previously. Some estimate as many as 600,000 people were registered to vote and couldn't vote after that photo ID law went into effect,” said Weatherby.

Approved photo IDs accepted at polling locations in Texas include driver licenses, election identification certificates, personal identification cards, concealed handgun licenses, military identification cards, citizenship certificates and passports.

“Now you can still use one of those seven forms of photo ID, but now they can be expired up to four years. Previously, before the court ruling, it was up to 60 days,” Weatherby said.

For those who don't have any of those forms of ID, there are even more options this year.

“Now, after the ruling, if you are registered, you can actually use that voter registration card as proof of who you are if you sign a very simple form that says you don't have those other IDs because you've had a problem getting one of those,” said Weatherby.

A certified birth certificate, current utility bill, current bank statement, current paycheck or a government document that lists your name and address will also be accepted.

The Austin League of Women Voters hope those changes will bring some Texans back to the polls.

“We believe every single citizen of the United States and certainly of Texas should be able to go to the polls and exercise their right to vote,” Weatherby said.

Anyone who has changed their name or address will have to re-register and must be registered in the County they plan to vote in.

Groups like the Austin League of Women Voters are hoping to help people do just that so that as many people as possible will have a hand in choosing their new policymakers.

“The only vote that doesn't count is the one that you don't place,” said Weatherby.

In Texas, voters must have their registration postmarked 30 days before the election.

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