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Judge Warns Texas Women About New Voter ID Law

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on October 25, 2013 12:24 PM

Texas women who plan to vote using maiden or even hyphenated names may experience a hitch or two at the polls because of the state's new voter ID law.

The issue came to light earlier this week when a district judge in southern Texas had trouble casting a ballot.

With early voting already underway in Texas, women of the Lone Star State may want to take proactive steps to thwart potential ID problems.

As 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts learned first-hand, name changes that may have come as a result of marriage or divorce can cause problems at the polls.

"What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote," Watts told Corpus Christi's KIII-TV.

If you want to avoid Watts' plight, you'll want to understand what the new Texas law requires, what photo IDs are acceptable, and how to get them.

Your Rights Under Texas' Voter ID Law

The state's new voter ID law requires that names on both the identification card and the voter registration card be "substantially similar," according to the state website.

A "substantially similar" name may include a nickname, a maiden name, or a suffix such as "Sr./Jr./VII."

If your name doesn't match exactly, you still have at least two ways to vote, according to the law:

  • If your name isn't a perfect match but is "substantially similar," you must sign an affidavit affirming you are who you claim, which is then marked in the poll book.
  • If your name is deemed dissimilar, you can file a provisional ballot and present updated information within six days of the election.

This whole name game rigmarole seems like a major hassle just for Lone Star ladies, right? Well, many believe it's an unlawfully discriminatory hassle because women change their names far more often than men.

Don't Mess With (Women From) Texas

In 2012, the Department of Justice found that the Texas voter ID law discriminated against minorities and low-income voters in the state -- now there's growing concern that it places an unnecessary burden on women.

From Pennsylvania to North Carolina, groups like the ACLU and League of Women Voters are spearheading lawsuits against voter ID laws in a number of states, alleging these changes have a disproportionate adverse impact on women, students, the elderly and minorities.

But in the meantime, Texas' voter ID law is still in effect. So Ms. and Mrs., take it upon yourselves to be prepared.

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