Voting rights watch: Texas makes voting harder for women

A classic country/western song says: “If you want to play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.”  Well, if you want to vote in Texas on November 5, 2013, you gotta have a photo ID in your hand—a photo ID with your “up-to-date legal name” on it. That’s the new specification for Texas photo IDs, and it’s designed to disenfranchise the class of people who are most likely not to meet that standard: women.

As many as 34 percent of women voters in Texas lack a photo ID with their current name on it. The reason, of course, is that so many women change their names when they get married or divorced, but don’t get around to changing their drivers’ licenses until the next expiration date. Ninety-nine percent of men have their up-to-date legal names on their documents, because they never change their names.

And just to make the hurdle for women even higher, according to The New Civil Rights Movement:

Texas law now requires women to show original documents of the name change: a marriage certificate, a divorce certificate, or a court-ordered name-change certificate—and no photocopies are allowed. This leaves women in Texas either scrambling to gather the proper paperwork and get their ID in order before the registration cut-off, or leaves them unable to vote.

Think Progress adds:

Getting approved copies of these documents is often expensive or difficult for many, especially low-income women, to obtain.

…In the absence of original documents, voters must pay a minimum of $20 to receive new copies. Due to inflexible work schedules and travel expenses, voters often opt to have their documents mailed, incurring additional costs.

Similar to how poor, minority, and elderly voters in Pennsylvania had trouble getting to the DMV to obtain a state ID or driver’s license before the election, women in Texas are having trouble getting an acceptable photo ID that matches their most current name.

Just to put all of this into the real world, let me ask you this question: If you’re married or divorced, how quickly could you put your hands on your original marriage certificate, or your original divorce papers?

Why now?

The timing of this discriminatory voter ID law is not an accident. It comes as a direct response to the rising popularity of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis—a Democrat in the Republican-dominated legislature—whose 11-hour filibuster of anti-choice legislation catapulted her into the limelight. She is now running for Governor against Republican Greg Abbott, and she is galvanizing women voters in the state. The Texas Republican party is running scared, so, rather than try to win an election fair and square, they’re doing what Republican legislatures are doing all over America–rigging the election system to disenfranchise “undesirable” voters. It’s a sickening trend. First it was African-Americans, then it was Hispanics, then it was poor people, then it was anyone whose name sounded “foreign.” And now it’s women. After they exclude all of these groups, who will be left to vote? Oh, wait, that’s their point, isn’t it?