Pflugerville woman worries about possible voter disenfranchisement

If you ask Teri Saunders about her dad John Wilkerson, she will tell you the tennis great is loved by many and is leading a great life.

"He's helped out so many people, he's done so much for his community, for his country, he served, he’s a veteran," she said.

She and her dad are big advocates for voting. Recently, he had to replace some identifying documents. "They told me they had an issue trying to find a birth certificate for him. They said it actually happens a lot with a lot of older people from his generation," she said.

Wilkerson was born in 1939....a time when things looked much different in the United States.

"My grandma was not allowed to go into a hospital. A lot of Black women who were pregnant would have to get midwives and have the baby at home. I guess the government didn't think it was important enough to get them birth certificates," said Saunders.


Local historian and archaeologist Dr. Fred McGhee recalls this issue coming up in his studies. "There are many people of color in Texas who for a variety of reasons, related to both race and class, who do not have quote-unquote official documentation," he said.

Because of this, Saunders believes a wave of some states trying to enact a photo voter ID requirement is discrimination.
The issue has made its way through courts in North Carolina recently. There were also accusations of voter suppression in Georgia after other voting changes were passed there. 

Senate Bill 7 was the bill in the headlines in Texas, although it was not particularly related to ID requirements, it still has Saunders concerned. 

It was blocked last session, but could come up again in a special session. One of the provisions in the bill only allows Sunday voting after 1 pm, which is often right after church service. "The Sunday voting that is also a Black tradition that we do right beforehand," said Saunders.


If it were to become law, SB 7 also adds an ID requirement for mail-in voting. "A lot of elderly people can't go in line to vote so they are going to have to use mail-in," she said.

Saunders said she understands the importance of election security, but doesn't believe in disenfranchisement of any kind, which includes unreasonable identification requirements, limiting hours, or making it harder to vote. "What’s the root of it?" she said.

"It's not inaccurate to refer to SB 7 as at least a spiritual descendant of things that were features of Jim Crow disenfranchisement," said McGhee.

As of today in Travis County, alternate forms of ID are allowed but the voter must also "execute a reasonable impediment declaration" according to the county's website.