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Ear to the Ground

How Texas’ Voter ID Laws Affect Women

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Posted on Oct 19, 2013
San Diego Shooter (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It’s no secret voter ID laws were drafted with minorities in mind, but they’re not the only ones who could have their voice suppressed by such legislation. This fall in Texas, many women may also face difficulties exercising their right to vote.

The discriminatory legislation, made possible in the wake of the Supreme Court’s infamous gutting of the Voting Rights Act, demands that citizens provide photo identification that displays their current name. PolicyMic points out why this will present a problem to many women in the Lone Star State:

Supporters of these new laws insist that requiring voters to have an ID that matches their birth certificate is a reasonable requirement. As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has repeatedly said, “Almost every single person either has a valid photo ID … or it is very easy to get one.” What they don’t say, however, is that the people who don’t are largely married women who have taken their husband’s name.

In fact, only 66% of women have an ID that reflects their current name. If any voter is using name different than what appears on their birth certificate, the voter is required to show proof of name change by providing an original or certified copy of their marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered name change. Photocopies aren’t accepted.

Now ask a woman who’s been married for years where her original marriage certificate is. Ask a woman who’s been divorced — maybe more than once — where all the divorce decrees are. Ask elderly women where their original birth certificate is.

As Elisabeth Genn, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, has noted, “While some women do have access to the entire chain of documents that connects their current name with birth name — including birth certificates and marriage licenses — that’s not always the case.”

Ordering a new copy of your birth certificate or marriage verification means travelling in person to the state capital, something largely impossible for senior citizens or people with day jobs, and paying the $22 to have a certified copy printed. You can also wait 6-8 weeks to have it mailed to you and pay $22 plus up to $19.95 in mailing costs.

That is assuming, of course, that you already have several forms of identification. If you don’t, a U.S. District Court has estimated that many Texans would have to travel up to 250 miles to receive a “free” election ID card and pay all the additional fees associated with providing documentation to explain their name change.

More importantly, women who have been voting the same way for years will likely go to the polls in the same way they always have, unaware the changes mean they can no longer vote and that they, in all likelihood, would have needed to begin the process to acquire copies of their legal documents months beforehand.

...It’s no coincidence that Republican-controlled state governments are making it harder for women to vote following a presidential election with the largest gender gap in recorded history. It’s certainly no coincidence that the same states legislators who are passing alarming new restrictions on abortion and birth control are the same ones making it harder for women to vote them out of office.

And of course, as the article points out, men don’t tend to change their names after marriage or divorce, and hence, will not have the same troubles women will come Nov. 5. Susan B. Anthony once said, “No self-respecting woman would wish or work for the success of a party which ignores her political rights.” It’s times like these that one has to wonder how there can be a single woman left supporting the Republican Party as it goes out of its way to deny minorities and women their constitutional rights.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

 

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