It’s a trend lately, that if a party is afraid of losing an election, they pass legislation barring key groups in their opponents’ base from voting. And clearly, it’s something Texas has taken to heart. Right after Wendy Davis declared that she was running for governor, Texas Republicans set out to disenfranchise women from voting, 19th Amendment be damned.
And the way they’re keeping ladies out of the voting booth it is a doozy.
As of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66% of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesn’t affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34% of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99% of men are home free.
Adding another wrinkle to the plan, women in Texas must show original documents of the name change: a marriage certificate, a divorce certificate, or a court-ordered name change certificate – and no photocopies are allowed. This leaves women in Texas either scrambling to gather the proper paperwork and get their ID in order before the registration cut-off, or leaves them unable to vote.
As ThinkProgress points out, getting approved copies of these documents is often expensive or difficult for many, especially low-income women, to obtain:
Constituents must show original documents verifying legal proof of a name change, whether it is a marriage license, divorce decree, or court ordered change – they are prevented from using photocopies. In the absence of original documents, voters must pay a minimum of $20 to receive new copies. Due to inflexible work schedules and travel expenses, voters often opt to have their documents mailed, incurring additional costs.
Similar to how poor, minority, and elderly voters in Pennsylvania had trouble getting to the DMV to obtain a state ID or driver’s license before the election, women in Texas are having trouble getting an acceptable photo ID that matches their most current name.
The clear argument for this law is that people prove who they are to vote – that they are citizens, that they live where they say the live and are who they claim to be. The clear argument against this law is that it specifically targets women in a year where a controversial, pro-choice woman is running for the highest office in a state with a conservative, pro-life dominated government. The timing isn’t an accident.
This law comes after a summer showdown in the state house over abortion restrictions, where Davis stood for hours telling the stories of Texas women who made the agonizing decision to terminate their pregnancies. When the state government went ahead with passing the restrictions – despite the law being passed after midnight, despite the cries of thousands of men and women who stood strong in the state house lobby protesting the decision, despite the entire country watching the fight on CNN, Twitter, and YouTube –Davis’ popularity and reputation for fighting for women soared. Rick Perry has a reason to be scared of Davis. His own popularity with women is low, most likely due to his strict reproductive health restrictions, gutting of childcare funding and opposition to equal pay.
Texas clearly isn’t afraid of shutting people out on Election Day – just hours after the Supreme Court knocked down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act this past summer, Texas declared that its new voter ID law and redistricting plan were effective immediately. This move gerrymandered the state even more in favor of conservative legislators, and shut out thousands of poor, elderly, minority, and student voters without proper ID. Added with this move to cut thousands of women out of the voting pool, I have to ask: who exactly is left to vote in Texas?
It seems that if the Tea Party gets their way, the only people left to vote will be wealthy white men. And while that is exactly what the Founding Fathers did back in Revolutionary War times, fortunately our country has come a long way since then. We have fought too hard for voter inclusion to bar people from the polls because they don’t vote the way we like them to. We live in a representative democracy where everyone’s voice should be heard.
If Texas Republicans want to beat Wendy Davis at the polls, they shouldn’t keep women out of the polling places. They should pick a better candidate than Rick Perry.