The Law of Unintended Consequences: Texas's Voter ID Law and Maiden Names

Jane Used to Be Able to Vote
Jane Used to Be Able to Vote

The spate of voter ID laws that have been churning out of conservative controlled legislatures and governors' mansions over the past number of years -- and especially since the Supreme Court's ruling in Shelby County -- are nakedly partisan in nature. Indeed, when the Bush DOJ spent five years trying to find examples of voter fraud, they came up empty. You have to be either the most partisan of people or plain simple to not know that the GOP backs these laws so fiercely because they depress voter turnout amongst folks who are more likely to vote Democratic. For example, in Texas you can vote if you show your gun permit, but not with a college student ID.

Well, turns out the Republicans in Texas did not think of one thing: maiden names:

The problem came to light Monday, when a local district judge had trouble casting a ballot.

"What I have used for voter registration and for identification for the last 52 years was not sufficient yesterday when I went to vote," 117th District Court Judge Sandra Watts said.

Watts has voted in every election for the last 49 years. The name on her driver's license has remained the same for 52 years, and the address on her voter registration card or driver's license hasn't changed in more than two decades. So imagine her surprise when she was told by voting officials that she would have to sign a "voters affidavit" affirming she was who she said she was.

"Someone looked at that and said, 'Well, they're not the same,'" Watts said.

The difference? On the driver's license, Judge Watts' maiden name is her middle name. On her voter registration, it's her actual middle name. That was enough under the new, more strict voter fraud law, to send up a red flag.

"This is the first time I have ever had a problem voting," Watts said.

This is very funny on one level. An elected official -- a judge -- is not able to vote because of this law. But of course this is serious stuff at the end of the day, and maybe something like is what it will take for people to stand up and take notice of effects of these laws.

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