In addition to attacks on their reproductive rights, women in Texas are facing another sizable problem: large-scale disenfranchisement. Thanks to the state’s strict voter ID law – going into effect on November 5 – constituents must now provide a photo ID with their most up-to-date, legally-recognized name at the polls. On the surface the prerequisite appears achievable, but in reality it disproportionately impacts female voters, specifically those who are married.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with [their] current legal name” – the remainder must find a way to procure a new photo ID to vote in upcoming elections. Because so many women fail to update their IDs after adopting their spouses’ last name, their right to vote is under threat. Doing so, however, comes with a litany of obstacles.
Constituents must show original documents verifying legal proof of a name change, whether it is a marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered change – they are prevented from using photocopies. 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.
Taken together, these obstacles to proving a legal name change will eliminate a large pool of women from the state’s electorate, as many will face time and financial constraints that will prohibit them from securing new credentials. On the other hand, the majority of men eligible to vote will not encounter the same difficulties, because they do not typically modify their names when married.
Voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise students, low-income voters and people of color — all of which are groups that tend to lean left. Indeed, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA) admitted last year that he supported voter ID because he believed it would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” In a conservative state like Texas, where reproductive healthcare was recently on the chopping block in the state legislature, removing female stakeholders from the body of voters ensures that the votes most impacted by these policies are also less likely to show up at the polls.
(HT: Natalie Smith)