The standard condemnations of voter-ID laws have the benefit of being true: the laws are intended to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and have the practical effect of discriminating against the poor, the elderly, students, and minorities.
But let’s also not forget the impact on women voters.
Rick Hasen flagged a remarkable story out of Corpus Christi, Texas, where the state’s new voter-ID law – imposed after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act – is causing problems for women who use maiden names or hyphenated names. A local district court judge experienced the problem first hand.
“What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.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.“Someone looked at that and said, ‘Well, they’re not the same,’” Watts said.The difference? On the driver’s license, Judge Watts’ maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it’s her actual middle name.
And that alone was enough to trigger a red flag. Under Texas’ new law, Watts had trouble voting for the first time in her life, all because of a ridiculous ID law that was approved by Republicans to stack elections in their favor.
Remember, over the last 13 years, tens of millions of votes have been cast in Texas, and the grand total of documented instances of voter fraud is one – not one percent, just one guy.
And yet, state Republicans approved a discriminatory voter-ID law anyway. As Ari Berman explained, the law is off to a rough start: “Based on Texas’s own data, 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters don’t have the government-issued ID needed to cast a ballot, with Hispanics 46 to 120 percent more likely than whites to lack an ID. But a much larger segment of the electorate, particularly women, will be impacted by the requirement that a voter’s ID be ‘substantially similar’ to their name on the voter registration rolls. According to a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a third of all women have citizenship documents that do not match their current legal name.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder launched a challenge against the Texas law in August, though the law remains in place as the litigation process continues.