First, it was the Texas District Judge Sandra Watts who, after voting for the past five decades, was almost barred from voting Oct 22nd. Now it’s gubernatorial candidate state Senator Wendy Davis who had difficulty voting thanks to the state’s new, strict voter ID law. The law kicked in Tues. Oct. 22 just in time for the start of early voting in Texas’ November 5 election.
What is the big problem that caused Wendy Davis to need to sign an affidavit in addition to showing ID to exercise her constitutional right to vote? Her driver’s license has her name as Wendy Russell Davis but voter registration records listed her as Wendy Davis. So that wasn’t good enough according to the new law because the names have to be exactly the same.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office says that if the name on the photo ID doesn’t match exactly but is “substantially similar” to the name on the registered voters’ list, a voter will be permitted to vote as long as the voter signs an affidavit stating that the voter is the same person on the list of registered voters.
If poll workers deem that the ID and listed name are close enough then the person can vote, but is required to sign an affidavit stating they are who they say they are like Senator Davis did. Senator Davis and other Democrats are concerned that women who have IDs that don’t match exactly due to marriage, divorce, or some other name change will need to go home and get additional documentation or will simply be turned away from the polls.
That’s my greatest concern — that women will show up to vote [and] they’ll be turned away because they don’t have that documentation and that women will be disenfranchised as a consequence of the interpretation of the voter ID law as it’s been applied.
According to the Tarrant County elections supervisor, Steve Raborn, extra documentation shouldn’t be necessary.
Even changes of name for whatever reason — marriage or divorce — they can use things like the address, and date of birth and the photo to verify the identity, so we aren’t expecting any difficulty.
The concerns of Senator Davis and others are not unfounded. The new Texas voter ID law is set to disenfranchise several groups including minorities, senior citizens, college students, and women. The effect of disenfranchising Texas women right now after the large fight over abortion rights in the state is significant.
In a recent their piece, The War on Voting is a War on Women, Barbara Arnwine and Eleanor Smeal point out that of all the groups set to be disenfranchised by voter ID bills women, are the ones impacted the most.
What is not commonly known, however, is that women are among those most affected by voter ID laws. In one survey, 66% of women voters had an ID that reflected their current name, according to the Brennan Center. The other 34% of women would have to present both a birth certificate and proof of marriage, divorce, or name change in order to vote, a task that is particularly onerous for elderly women and costly for poor women who may have to pay to access these records.
According to Time.com:
The state has implemented extended hours and deployed mobile units to make getting election ID easier. Yet, as of last week, just 41 people across the state had been issued with the cards, the Dallas Morning News reports. An estimated 1.4 million eligible voters in the state do not have the proper IDs to vote.
Where does that leave female Texas voters? If you have the proper documentation to get an ID you may or may not be able to obtain one. These hurdles are made more complex if you are a naturalized citizen, lack transportation, are disabled, or a transgender woman. This seems like a lot to put American citizens through when voter fraud is less likely than a UFO sighting.