Harsh new Texas voter ID law almost blocks woman judge from voting

A new voter ID law requiring strict uniformity across all forms of identification nearly kept a Texas district judge from being able to cast her ballot in the state's early voting session. According to Think Progress, Judge Sandra Watts was challenged at the poll when she presented her usual ID.

"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 told KIII-TV.

Watts said she has voted in every election for the last 49 years and that her name on her driver's license has remained the same for the last 52. The address on her license and voter registration card have been the same for more than two decades. However, on Tuesday, at the outset of early voting for the Nov. 5 election, the judge was asked to sign a "voter's affidavit" saying that she is who she says she is before she would be allowed to vote.

The problem was that her maiden name was listed as her middle name on her driver's license, whereas on her voter registration card, her actual middle name is listed. This small discrepancy was enough to have her flagged as a potentially fraudulent voter.

Under laws recently adopted by the Republican-led state legislature, anyone whose name differs even slightly from one form of ID to another is automatically flagged for possible vote fraud. The new policy could particularly impact women who now go by married or hyphenated names.

Think Progress reported that many women don't update all of their identification after marriage in Texas because the process is costly and time-consuming. All original documents like marriage licenses and birth certificates are required. Obtaining copies of the documents currently costs $20 per request and the wait periods can take months.

A Brennan Center for Justice study found that only "66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with [their] current legal name.”

Voters who choose not to sign the affidavit form have the option of casting a provisional ballot. Those votes, however, are typically not counted until 7 to 10 days after the election, when their identity has been verified.

Texas women have figured prominently in the rise of State Senator Wendy Davis (D), who announced that she is running for governor in 2014 after mounting an eleventh hour filibuster against the state legislature's draconian anti-abortion omnibus bill. In addition to disenfranchising thousands of women who might vote for Davis, the new voter ID requirements, like all such laws, will disproportionately affect students, the poor and people of color, constituencies that typically vote Democratic.

Judge Watts said that she's concerned that most women voters won't realize there's a discrepancy until they're at the polls.

"I don't think most women know that this is going to create a problem," she said. "That their maiden name is on their driver's license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married, and this. And so why would I want to use a provisional ballot when I've been voting regular ballot for the last 49 years?"

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KiiiTV3.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend