The Law of Unintended Consequences: Texas's Voter ID Law and Maiden Names

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Jane Used to Be Able to Vote
The spate of voter ID laws that have been churning out of conservative controlled legislatures and governors' mansions over the past number of years -- and especially since the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County -- are nakedly partisan in nature. Indeed, when the Bush DOJ spent five years trying to find examples of voter fraud, they came up empty. You have to be either the most partisan of people or plain simple to not know that the GOP backs these laws so fiercely because they depress voter turnout amongst folks who are more likely to vote Democratic. For example, in Texas you can vote if you show your gun permit, but not with a college student ID.

Well, turns out the Republicans in Texas did not think of one thing: maiden names:

The problem came to light Monday, when a local district judge had trouble casting a ballot.

"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 said.

Watts has voted in every election for the last 49 years. The name on her driver's license has remained the same for 52 years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver's license hasn't changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a "voters affidavit" affirming she was who she said she was.

"Someone looked at that and said, 'Well, they're not the same,'" Watts said.

The difference? On the driver's license, Judge Watts' maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it's her actual middle name. That was enough under the new, more strict voter fraud law, to send up a red flag.

"This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting," Watts said.

This is very funny on one level. An elected official -- a judge -- is not able to vote because of this law. But of course this is serious stuff at the end of the day, and maybe something like is what it will take for people to stand up and take notice of effects of these laws.

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18 comments
mikabi12751
mikabi12751

Not a complete picture of what is happening. I've been voting with my drivers license for 40 years. No problem till this week. But the name on my voter ID and my drivers license IS my maiden name and not my middle name. The problem? DPS decided to stop spelling out my middle/maiden name on my drivers license which was renewed a year ago. So the drivers license has a middle initial H and the voter ID has the word that starts with an H spelled out. I was put through the same ordeal as the judge however. Stupid. Short-sighted. And I'm a card-carrying, registered Republican.

The real stinker about this is that my husband voted at the same time. His drivers license and voter ID names did not match but he was able to vote with no questions, delays, or extra forms to fill out. SOMEBODY or SOMETHING is telling polling place people to scrutinize women's IDs but bypass men's IDs. Am I angry? You bet.

wb8jel
wb8jel

Preventing women from voting isn't a bug in the law, it's a feature.

spaceysteph
spaceysteph

OK I'm not a fan of the voting law but this is still pretty dumb on the part of a sitting judge. She has one legal name and should have all her documents in the same name. Its one thing for poor, rural women and minorities to have mismatched documents, but JUDGE Watts should know better.

Dodd Melcher
Dodd Melcher

It's nice to know where the media stands.

rich5371
rich5371

This is a very misleading article.  Signing a "voters affidavit" does not mean she did not vote.  It just means she signed an affidavit affirming she is who she says she is.  Her vote was counted - "An elected official -- a judge -- is not able to vote because of this law" is a completely inaccurate statement.

tenmen
tenmen

Why dont we have an ALCOHOL DRINKING LICENSE??  You can not buy alcohol without a license, have to go on line or to the DPS and take a test yearly, pay a fee so you can drink. Those convited felons, DUI's, domestic abuse wont get one, at least for a stautory period of time and then have to pay a sizeable bond for your drinking license.

RebelYellTexan
RebelYellTexan

The aim was to suppress both the minority AND the female vote. Their plan is working! Muahahahaha!

Anse
Anse

It's especially funny when one remembers the whole purpose of voter ID laws is to suppress Democratic votes. This will probably snag more than a few Republican women.

Loona_c
Loona_c

"Well, turns out the Republicans in Texas did not think of one thing maiden names."  Or maybe they did.

johnnybench
johnnybench topcommenter

I wonder how many people will be directly turned away at the polls by misguided election officials without being given the opportunity to sign a voters affidavit or cast a provisional ballot.  

wb8jel
wb8jel

You're spacey, all right. TxDPS insists on the maiden name going in the middle spot when a woman married and takes her husband's surname. Voter registration cards have no such requirement.

mikabi12751
mikabi12751

@rich5371  The issue with having to sign the affidavit is that it is a convoluted process that has a voter standing around in the middle of other people trying to vote, being squeezed away while the polling place people are holding on to the voter's ID (drivers license!). It's a very muddy process thanks to the stupidity of our legislators who seem to have no clue how things are in the real world.

mikabi12751
mikabi12751

@RebelYellTexan Whatever it is, the plan is NOT working. There are plenty of people out there like me who are in their faces about this. Yes, in their faces, interrupting their day, complaining to them and standing up for our rights. Unfortunately that's what we have to do all to often in this over-governed society we live in.

mikabi12751
mikabi12751

@Anse You are right. I'm not so sure there was actually a plan. I think it was more STUPIDITY on the part of our legislators. This is not the first bone-headed idea they've had and unfortunately won't be the last. All the more reason to nag them when they do these stupid things.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@johnnybench For some reason *wink wink nudge nudge* the workers at the polls generally don't tell people about provisional ballots. 

mikabi12751
mikabi12751

@wb8jel  Not true. It was I that decided to use my maiden name as my middle name years ago. The problem for me is that (1) DPS decided to quit spelling out my middle name on my license and (2) I am female and there is some reason that polling place people are targeting women for scrutiny. The whole thing is stupid.   They're looking at the same name, the same address and looking the person in the eye and yet put us through this. Shameless.

spaceysteph
spaceysteph

When I changed my name 6 months ago the only requirement was that it match my Social Security card. I did put my maiden as middle but the DPS worker a)seemed surprised and b) cautioned me to do the same with my SS card, like it wasn't normal.

I don't know what, if anything, was required 52 years ago.

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