What do Greg Abbott, Wendy Davis, State Senator Letitia Van De Putte, Former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright, and U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Watts all have in common? They all apparently have high potential for committing voting fraud– at lest according to the State of Texas. All five of these prominent Texas leaders were hassled by the new Texas Voter ID Law this past November. It has been a concern for those opposed to the Voter ID Law that it will make it difficult for individuals to obtain appropriate identification, and thus poor, elderly, and minority voters will be disenfranchised because they lack appropriate identification. However, it seems that one distinct group that also may be affected are people whose photo ID’s don’t match the name that is recorded in the voter rolls. Of the five people listed above, the only individual who had trouble obtaining an ID was 90-year-old former Speaker Jim Wright. The other four were forced to sign an affidavit because their names on their IDs did not match exactly to their names on the poll books. Only 0.2% of the voting population had to cast a provisional ballot presumably due to improper ID, while some precincts are estimating that as high as 40% of voters had to sign an affidavit for name inconsistencies.
The law states that the voter must present herself at the polling place with identification that is identical to what is shown in the poll book. If the voter’s ID is not identical, then the poll worker will make a determination if the names are “substantially similar.” If the names are substantially similar then the voter can sign an affidavit and cast her ballot. If the names are not deemed by the poll worker to be substantially similar then the voter will be asked to cast a provisional ballot. After the voter casts a provisional ballot she will have six days to present an appropriate ID. However, even if the voter goes through all of the necessary steps to verify her provisional ballot, the law states that her vote still may not count.
The part of the law that allows for the affidavit was not actually in the original legislation. It is an amendment proposed by Wendy Davis that allows those with substantially similar names to sign the affidavit to vote. This fix, ironically enough, is the reason Greg Abbott, a big proponent of strict voter ID laws, was able to vote in this past election
Even though Abbott was affected, women generally change their name much more frequently then men, which means that women’s voting rights will be impacted significantly more then their male counterparts. Thus the law is not only potentially in violation of the 14th amendment, but the 19th amendment as well.