Voter Identification Laws a Setback for Women in Texas

Come November, many states will experience numerous efforts to address voting changes to amendments that may or may not stir public debate. In Texas, this election will be the first in which the new and controversial voter identification law will be in effect.

Under this law, all voters will be required to present a photo ID that bears their current name. If no such document is present, options can include other forms of identification which must match the exact name on their birth certificate, marriage license or divorce decree. While legal spokespersons supporting the new law have confirmed this is a relatively easy requirement, opponents say it is a veiled attempt to suppress minority voting, targeting married or divorced women who have undergone a name change.

One study reports that less than 70% of all women eligible to vote possess a document bearing their current name. If an individual is voting under a different name than what appears on his or her birth, marriage or divorce certificate, the voter will be unable to vote unless an original or certified copy of the marriage license, divorce document or court-ordered name change certificate is presented. Copies are not permitted.

A woman who have been married or divorced a long time may not know where her pertinent documentation is. Many do not possess a birth certificate. A representative for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program has stated the majority of women do not have easy access to their paperwork confirming their current name.

So it should be easy to get, right? Typically, obtaining a copy of one’s birth or marriage certificate requires appearing in person at the state capital, which is frequently impossible for seniors or those with jobs. In addition, there is the cost to have a certified copy made, along with lengthy waiting period of up to two months to obtain a mailed copy, which might run someone in the neighborhood of more than $40. That presupposes you can produce multiple forms of identification. One district court has recommended obtaining a “free” election card, which could involve traveling up to 250 miles, producing all those extra forms of identification and possibly paying fees.

Voting issues aside, all Americans should be mindful of keeping their identification current, especially following marriage, divorce or decisions to change one’s name. We are in an age where in more and more public places, we have to be prepared to show multiple forms of photo ID’s with matching names. If you are unsure how and where to resolve the legal issues associated with marriage or divorce, it is wise to seek advice in this area. It may affect your rights under the law in ways unimaginable.

Source:, “Texas’ New Voter ID Laws May Roll Back Women’s Voting Rights” Natalie Smith, Oct. 15, 2013

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