While most of the focus on the recently implemented Texas voter ID law has been related to allegations of racial discrimination, some onlinereports have recently raised concerns that the law could disenfranchise a different demographic: people who have legally changed their names, particularly women. But election officials say the concerns are unwarranted. The media reports suggest that voters who lack an ID updated to reflect their legal name could be turned away from the polls. Women, who often change their name after marriage or divorce, are at a higher risk of disenfranchisement under the voter ID law, those reports say. But election officials deny the risk, saying protocols are in place for cases in which the name on a person’s voter ID is not identical to his or her legal name. “We encourage poll workers to look at the entirety of the ID,” said Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state’s office. “If the names are similar but not identical, you sign an affidavit saying you’re the same person.”
State lawmakers passed the voter ID bill, which requires voters to show one of seven state- or federally issued forms of ID to vote, in 2011. But the November election will be the first statewide election with the law in effect, because it was kept on hold until a June U.S. Supreme Court decision made its implementation possible.
Many opponents of the law agree that the disenfranchisement claims for people with legally changed names are largely inaccurate, but they say the issue is a prime example of widespread confusion about the law as it takes effect.
“We don’t think [the voter ID law] will solve a real problem, and we think it creates real barriers to some voters and confusion to many,” said Linda Krefting, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. Still, she said she worries about the recent misinformation about the name changes. “That’s not a controversy we ought to be raising right now,” she said. “It’s just going to confuse people.”