Voting while married gets a bit trickier in Texas

Earlier this week I wrote about the possibility of more women running for office in the United States. In something of a one-step-back development, a new voter ID law in Texas could make it more difficult for some women to vote.

The problem is that the law requires a voter to produce a photo ID with his or her current legal name—which can be difficult not only for those who don’t have driver’s licenses, but also for those who have changed their names after getting married or divorced.

Advertisement

The website Think Progress has been reporting on the issue, beginning with a piece by Carimah Townes, who noted that obtaining or updating an official voter ID requires “original documents verifying legal proof of a name change, whether it is a marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered change – they are prevented from using photocopies.”

That was followed by Scott Keyes’s post on an 84-year-old woman who has voted for more than 60 years and is now having trouble getting a state-issued voter ID card (she doesn’t drive) because of a lost marriage license. And on Monday, Aviva Shen wrote about a district judge who ran into difficulty because her driver’s license has her maiden name as her middle name (whereas her voter registration has her real middle name). The source is a news report from KIII-TV:

[Judge Sandra] Watts has voted in every election for the last 49 years. The name on her driver’s license has remained the same for 52 years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver’s license hasn’t changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a “voters affidavit” affirming she was who she said she was. […]

“This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting,” Watts said.

Nueces County elections official Diana Barrera said to be prepared.

“Yes, it will impact the elections. It will slow the process down, I would imagine, because they will have to fill out a little bit more information on the provisional vote envelope, so it can affect it,” Barrera said. “So it’s real important to get the word out.”

It will slow the process down. That’s the important part here. The state of Texas will not disenfranchise women—especially married women—in huge numbers. Judge Watts appears to have been able to cast her ballot, but with the extra step of signing an affidavit first. But anything that slows down lines at polling places will have a disproportionate impact on urban voters and on low-income voters who have only so much time before they have to give up and go to work, take care of children, etc. (Many of us take for granted that “I was voting” is a valid excuse for being late to work; it isn’t for a lot of people.)

Judge Watts may have caught a break because she was a longtime member of her community, perhaps known to the poll workers. A first-time voter, or one who has recently married or moved, might not be able to simply sign an “I swear” form in order to cast a ballot. Texas is offering free voter ID cards at “mobile stations” across the state, but applicants must produce birth certificates or passports, and those aren’t free to obtain.

Texans have some ballot questions to vote on this year, but we won’t really know the effects of the new ID law until 2014’s high-profile gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. Even if there is a noticeable drop in voter participation, however, there’s little chance that the law will be streamlined or revised. Making it harder for certain groups to vote is now considered a legitimate political strategy.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

Father Michael Nixon and parishioner work a volunteer table at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City, Fla. Photo by Atena Sherry.
Much like New Orleans’ Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina, the low-income neighborhoods east of Panama City, where St. Dominic is located, were especially hard-hit by the storm. Now residents here are desperate for help.
Atena SherryOctober 18, 2018
“I believe there are adequate, alternative options for true women’s health care out there, and Planned Parenthood is not needed,” said Alisha Fox, a health and wellness coach at a Catholic fertility center in Chicago.
Colleen ZeweOctober 18, 2018
 Ethiopian Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel of Addis Ababa checks out the name badge of Nathanael Lamataki, a youth delegate from the French territory of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, as they leave a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 5. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Souraphiel highlighted the role globalization plays in connecting young people in unjust ways.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 18, 2018
The pope said he would visit North Korea “if an official invitation arrives.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 18, 2018