Wendy Davis Held Up While Voting Due To New Voter Suppression Law

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While early voting on Monday for the November 5th statewide ballot measure election, Sen. Wendy Davis had to sign an affidavit in accordance with Texas' burdensome new voting restrictions. In 2011, Republicans passed this law, which a federal court later ruled (but before the partial repeal of the Voting Rights Act) was intentionally discriminatory against Latino Texans.

It has another target, too: women. The law burdens women who have changed their maiden names by requiring that they go through extra hoops to prove the name change.

If Republicans had 100 percent of their way, all women whose maiden names created a slight discrepancy between their ID and the voter roll would have had to cast a provisional ballot, conditional on their returning later with proof of the name change.

Luckily, there was a state senator from Fort Worth named Wendy Davis in the Legislature. Sen. Davis wrote a successful amendment that allowed those whose names on the roll and on the form of identification are substantially similar to sign an affidavit swearing that they are the same person, and then vote. That's what Sen. Davis did, since her name appears as Wendy Davis on the state's voter rolls and Wendy Russell Davis on her driver license.

Here's the amendment Davis passed that stems part of the discriminatory effect of this law:

If in determining whether a voter's name is on the list of registered voters the election officer determines that the voter's name on the documentation is substantially similar but does not match exactly the name on the list, the voter shall be accepted for voting as otherwise required by this section if the voter submits an affidavit stating that the voter is the person on the list of registered voters.

Of course, Davis voted against the larger bill because it is entirely unnecessary and designed only to suppress those who are likely to vote Democratic. Even with the amendment, the process to get the proper form of I.D. is often expensive, time-consuming, and prohibitive to voting.

Read more and find out how to make sure your vote is cast at the polls, below the jump.Last week, Texas judge Sandra Watts was nearly barred from voting due to different placement of her maiden name on her ID and on the voter roll. Watts has been voting in Texas for five decades.

Judge Watts is very concerned that women will be taken aback at the polls. “I don't think most women know that this is going to create a problem,” she said. “That their maiden name is on their driver's license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married, and this. And so why would I want to use a provisional ballot when I've been voting regular ballot for the last 49 years?”

Women across the state, including an elderly Dorothy Card, who has been voting in Texas for 60 years, have already been targeted by this law in the registration process. Many of those sent away will not have the time or financial resources to return to the polls. Many applying for very specific photo ID's will be turned away because of the difficulty of locating old marriage licenses. This is not an error of the law; it is part of the purpose of the law.

It's crucial that Texans know how to vote even in this discriminatory system. Here's the official rule on name-change from the Secretary of State's website:

“As long as the names are substantially similar, all a voter will have to do is initial to affirm he or she is the same person who is registered” said Secretary Steen. “Poll workers have been trained to account for names that might be substantially similar but not an exact match due to a number of circumstances including the use of nicknames, suffixes, and changes of name due to marriage or divorce.”

…”A voter without an approved form of photo ID will have the option to vote provisionally” said Secretary Steen. “A provisional voter will then have until the sixth day from Election Day to go to the county voter registrar to present an approved ID.”

Many Texans already have an approved form of photo ID. The seven forms of approved ID are:

- Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

- Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS

- Texas personal identification card issued by DPS

- Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS

- United States military identification card containing the person's photograph

- United States citizenship certificate containing the person's photograph

- United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polling place. For more information about voting in Texas, including the requirements of photo ID, visit www.VoteTexas.gov.

About Author

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman has been a BOR staff writer since 2011. A graduate of the University of Texas, Ben has worked on campaigns, in political consulting, and has written for other news outlets like Think Progress. Ben considers campaign finance reform the fundamental challenge of our time because it affects every other issue in American politics. He is currently on leave for the election season.

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