Delays at the polls this month due to glitches with voters’ identifications could signal a bigger problem to come next year, when many more turn out for state and county elections. Thousands of voters had to sign affidavits or cast provisional ballots on Nov. 5 — the first statewide election held under the state’s new voter identification law — because their name on the voter rolls did not exactly match the name on their photo ID. It took most only a short time, but election officials are concerned that a few minutes per voter to carefully check names and photos against voter registration cards, and then to have voters sign affidavits or fill out provisional paperwork, could snowball into longer waits and more frustration. A review by The Dallas Morning News found that 1,365 provisional ballots were filed in the state’s 10 largest counties. In most of them, the number of provisional ballots cast more than doubled from 2011, the last similar election, to 2013. Officials had no exact count for how many voters had to sign affidavits, but estimates are high. Among those who had to sign affidavits were the leading candidates for governor next year, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis.
“If it made any kind of a line in an election with 6 percent [voter] turnout, you can definitely imagine with a 58 percent,” said Dallas County elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole. In Dallas County, 13,903 people signed affidavits affirming their identity.
The statewide election included nine proposed constitutional amendments, along with various local city and school board offices and propositions. It was the first to take place under Texas’ 2011 law requiring that voters present a government-issued photo ID when they vote.
Name-match issues might surface for women who recently married or divorced and changed their identification but not their voter registration. For others, a shortened version of a name might appear on one document, while the full name is on the other. Signing the affidavit didn’t interfere with their ballot counting in the election, and election workers were instructed to give the voter the benefit of the doubt on a name-match issue.