Texas is preparing for the first major test of its hotly debated new voter ID law as Democrats and Republicans offer sharply differing assessments of its impact on the state’s March 4 primary. Citing the hundreds of thousands of people whose names on voter registration rolls do not match their government-issued IDs, Democrats say the law is already resulting in widespread confusion that could lead to delays at voting booths. Republicans say fears of disruptions are being overstated. Gov. Rick Perry signed the voter identification bill into law in 2011, but it did not take effect until last year, after the Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Voting Rights Act and allowed Texas and other states to change their election laws without federal approval. The confusion over names has hit some groups particularly hard, like women who changed their names after getting married or divorced. Voters are not turned away from the polls over minor name differences, but must initial an affidavit when they arrive at the polling place to cast a regular ballot.
Dallas County took the unusual step of mailing letters to nearly 200,000 voters who had name discrepancies in voter registration and government identification records. The letter, sent last month at a cost of $79,000, gave voters the option of updating their names on the voter rolls. Elections officials in other counties decided against doing any mailings, saying it was an issue that could be dealt with at the polls by having the person initial the affidavit.
Dallas County’s elections administrator, Toni Pippins-Poole, said the goal was to remove potential obstacles long before people arrive at the polls. “Making someone deal with an issue at the polls, in my opinion, that’s delaying the process,” Ms. Pippins-Poole said. “That puts a burden on the voter. It’s hard enough to get voters engaged in voting.”
She said her office had received almost 19,000 responses and was planning a second mailing, this time including a postage-paid envelope, at an initial estimated cost of $165,000; county leaders are scheduled to vote on whether to approve it next week.