As early voting begins in Texas, the state’s new, strict voter ID law has thus far flagged a judge, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, and another state senator as potentially illegitimate voters. Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), voter ID’s most strident defender, was also flagged as a suspicious voter under his own law’s strict criteria.
Abbott was flagged because his license lists his name as “Gregory Wayne Abbott” while his voter registration record simply calls him “Greg Abbott.”
Longtime voters, particularly married women who have taken a spouse’s name, are being stopped at the polls because their names on their drivers’ licenses differ from their voter registration forms. Thanks to an amendment added by Wendy Davis, voters who clearly have “substantially similar” names can still cast a regular ballot by signing an affidavit affirming their identity. If the law had gone through unmodified as Abbott originally supported, he would have disenfranchised himself.
Though Davis’ amendment will allow many legitimate voters to vote, the process to determine “substantial similarity” and organize affidavit-signing will inevitably clog up Texas electoral processes with unnecessary confusion. Come November 5, Texas’ polling places may resemble Florida’s in 2012, where Republicans’ election law changes created marathon lines and pollworker confusion.
The law has also affected countless ordinary Texans who do not attract as much media coverage as Davis or Abbott. People of color, low-income voters, seniors, and students are most likely to lack the required ID and may not have their votes counted as a result. While Texas officials claim it is easy for these people to get a free voter ID, just 41 out of 1.4 million eligible Texas voters have received one as of the middle of last month. ThinkProgress interviewed one 84-year-old woman who was denied the ID three times despite providing extensive proof of her identity.