In Texas, where early voting for the Nov. 5 elections started on Monday, the state’s controversial photo ID law is being enforced for the first time as citizens cast their ballots. In 2012, the Department of Justice found that the law discriminated against minorities and low-income voters in the state — now there’s growing concern that it places an unnecessary burden on women. Name changes that may have come as a result of marriage or divorce, reports say, may cause problems at the polls. On Tuesday, a local television station ran a story about a judge who faced an issue at the voting booth. “What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote,” 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts told Kiii News of South Texas. She had to sign an affidavit affirming her identity in order to vote because the last name on her voter registration card, her maiden name, didn’t match the last name on her license. “This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting,” she said. State officials say the issue, however, may not cause as many problems as the reports suggest. “We want to be very careful not to cause false alarm,” Alicia Pierce, a spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, told TIME. “We’ve worked very closely with poll workers to create the right forms and the right training to make sure this isn’t an issue at the polls.”
Though the law requires that names on both the identification card and the voter registration card be “substantially similar,” if a person’s name doesn’t match exactly they will still have an opportunity to vote. In that case, voters are required to sign an affidavit affirming they are who they claim, which is then noted in the poll book.
A “substantially similar” name, Pierce says, could include a nickname, a maiden name, and or suffix such as “junior.” If the poll worker finds that the name is dissimilar, a voter can file a provisional ballot and present updated information within six days of the election.
“In a perfect world, you would update your voter registration card regularly to match any identification that you plan to use,” Pierce said.
However, Linda Krefting, the President of the League of Women Voters of Texas says they would rather the voter ID law had not been passed in the first place. “We would rather have ended at preclearance,” Krefting told TIME. “But, since it is the law, the rights of voters are best protected if people understand what the law requires, what photo IDs are acceptable, and how to get them.”