Nearly 200,000 voters in Dallas County, Texas received letters warning them that they face a potential obstacle to casting their next ballot thanks to their state’s new voter ID law.
The letters inform voters that they are likely to run afoul of a requirement that the name on their ID exactly match the name listed in the voter registration database. This provision casts such a wide net that it even captures both of the leading candidates to become Texas’ next governor. The likely Democratic candidate is registered as “Wendy Davis” but her driver’s license reads “Wendy Russell Davis;” the leading Republican candidate is registered as “Greg Abbott” but his license reads “Gregory Wayne Abbott.”
Election officials mailed the nearly 200,000 letters in an effort to mitigate potential delays caused by this requirement. Although Texas’ voter ID law (thanks to an amendment offered by Davis) permits voters to cast a ballot if the name on their ID is “substantially similar” to the name on the voter registrar, they must file an affidavit in order to do so. This affidavit requirement can add minutes to the process required to move a single voter through the polls.
A few minutes might not seem like a big deal, but bear in mind that we are talking about tens of thousands of voters in Dallas County alone. Last December, a ThinkProgress analysis determined that if the new voter ID law adds just two minutes per voter caught by the exact name requirement, that could add up to six hours of delay per precinct. Texas could experience massive, multi-hour waits similar to the ones that faced Florida voters in 2012, simply because it takes too long to move voters with minor discrepancies between their registered name and the name on their ID.
The letters sent by Dallas County hope to reduce these lines by encouraging voters to reconcile their registered name with the name on their ID before an upcoming primary election in March. That’s one possible solution to the problem. Another solution would be repealing the voter ID law altogether. Although Voter ID’s proponents claim that these laws are needed to fight voter fraud, the kind of fraud deterred by these laws is virtually nonexistent. One study found that only 0.0023 percent of votes are the product of such fraud.