As a first-generation American kid, the saying, “you only really appreciate something when it’s gone” was repeated to me ad nauseum and drilled into my brain by my parents, who were forced to flee their homeland of Cuba in 1960. I heard it at family gatherings as well, and when visitors came over.

Hearing it was one thing, but I could also feel it in their voices and I saw it in their faces as they remembered all that they had lost. According to their stories, Cuba of the 1950s—though not perfect—was considered a paradise and a jewel of the Caribbean and Latin America. It even had a model constitution. All that was, of course, taken away by Fidel Castro and his communist revolution in 1959.

I think about that now, and I hear the saying as witness the current controversy over our elections. I never would have thought that in this country, the integrity of our elections and the electoral process—the very bedrock of our American republic—would be in jeopardy. But it is. Now I realize, with a bit of my own fear, what my parents were trying to tell me.

It is like President Ronald Reagan once said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”

Without accountability and transparency, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have trust and faith in the electoral process which underpins all the decisions made to govern our nation and our state.

While the media circus has focused much of its attention on election legislation in Georgia, we have our own fight right here in Texas. Two of the most prominent bills making their way through the Texas Legislature are Senate Bill 7 and House Bill 6.  Taken together, they close loopholes and strengthen our state electoral process by addressing the issues of maintaining accurate voter rolls, clarifying voter assistance provisions, prohibiting the use of private funds for election administration, and curbing the problems of ballot harvesting and unsolicited ballot requests. Both are needed and should be passed.

However, a third measure should be added in order to ensure we protect our voting system: voter identification for mail-in ballots. While the controversy has reached a fever-pitch across the country with the left (as usual) raising the specter of racism, nothing could be further from the truth. Texas already requires voter ID for in-person voting. This requirement is part of the law and has withstood legal challenge.

Requiring identification for mail-in ballots simply would bring uniformity and fairness to the system by making sure that all ballots cast whether in-person or by mail follow the same set of rules. Claiming the requirement of mail-in voter ID is racist is disingenuous and a distraction. Under this specious standard, identification requirements for Social Security, Medicaid, welfare, and food stamp applications would also be racist.

What I and many Americans are feeling is a disquieting sense of impending loss, and a sense that the foundations of America are under attack. Free and fair elections are what America is known for.

Faith in our elections leads to the peace and stability that allows our nation to grow and prosper. It is the hope that draws people from across the world to our shores.

We must rally around our election system. We must strengthen and protect it, not weaken it. We must appreciate and protect what we have while we have it—and not wait until it is gone.