It’s election day! Have you voted? Did you bring your ID? A pen to sign an affidavit affirming that you’re the person you say you are, in case your ID features a different name than the one you registered to vote under? Because that’s been a part of the experience for some prominent Texans—and, presumably, a lot more whose names don’t make headlines.
The category of “people who are registered to vote under a different name than the one that appears on their ID” might seem, at first glance, like it would mostly inconvenience shady people. But in practice, that category applies to many, including the two people most likely to become the next Governor of Texas. It includes people with nicknames—someone who filled out “Dan” on his voter registration instead of “Daniel,” as is written on his license—and those who use their middle name on some documents and not others. It also includes the many women who have changed their names upon marriage but only updated, say, their license and not their voter registration.
People who fall into those categories are still able to vote, of course: in cases where the differences are relatively slight, they can sign an affidavit to confirm that they’re the same person listed on the voter rolls.
The current Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott was required to sign an affidavit in order to vote because his full name is Gregory Wayne Abbott, and that name is what appears on his driver’s license, while he’s registered to vote as Greg Abbott. The process, for Abbott, was simple: He declared the issue of voter ID and affidavits to be “no big deal,” and accused opponents of the law of overhyping it.
U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Watts experienced her first problem voting in 52 years when casting her ballot in this election because her maiden name is listed on her driver’s license as her middle name, while it doesn’t appear on the voter registry. Watts expressed frustration about the process, but in her case, it can probably legitimately be filed under “no big deal.”
Like Watts, the state senator and democratic candidate for governor is identified on her driver’s license by both her maiden name and her last name—Wendy Russell Davis—while she’s registered as simply Wendy Davis. Davis is the beneficiary of her own amendment to the Voter ID law here, as she authored the bit that allows for voters with names that are “substantially similar” to vote by signing an affidavit, as opposed to having to return with additional documentation. Davis expressed concern for women whose names have more differences, though. As KERA News writes:
Davis is concerned that women who’ve married or divorced and have changed their last names will have to go home and bring back additional documentation, such as marriage or divorce certificates.
Davis said: “That’s my greatest concern—that women will show up to vote [and] they’ll be turned away because they don’t have that documentation and that women will be disenfranchised as a consequence of the interpretation of the voter ID law as it’s been applied.”
Letitia Van De Putte
State Senator Van De Putte wrote on Facebook that she registered to vote as Letitia San Miguel, but was still allowed to sign the affidavit allowing her to vote. That seems to render some of Davis’s concerns moot—Senator Van De Putte, at least, didn’t have to retrieve any additional documentation.
The former U.S. Speaker of the House faced more of a hassle when attempting to obtain his voter ID: The 90-year-old retired congressman was unable to obtain a valid voter ID card on his first attempt, because the documentation he brought with him—his expired driver’s license and his TCU faculty ID—didn’t meet the state’s standards. He’s expected to return today with his birth certificate, which should be sufficient to get him the necessary ID. But it does raise a question that opponents of the law have long asked: Does the law disenfranchise seniors who lack current ID and who are unable to easily return to a DPS location?
Questions like that won’t be settled by public opinion, though—U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sued the state in August to challenge the voter ID law. Ultimately, the arbiter of whether or not all of this is a big deal will come down to the courts.
(image via Flickr)