Voter ID law sparks some name-discrepancy hiccups

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Associated Press

Posted on October 27, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 7:32 AM

DALLAS (AP) — Newly enacted state law requiring voters to show picture identification is causing some hiccups at early-voting locations around Texas, according to a report published Sunday.

Rules requiring that a voter's name on IDs exactly match that listed in voter registration databases are especially problematic for women, The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/19ISAWj ) reported. The general election is Nov. 5.

To lessen the hassle, state officials say that if names are "substantially similar," a voter can immediately sign an affidavit verifying his or her identity, and then vote. Another option is casting a provisional ballot, then providing supporting information later. Provisional ballots are held until elections officials can verify that they should count.

State officials have promised to err on the side of the person trying to vote, rather than the other way around.

The voter ID law, championed by conservative activists, was approved in 2011 but didn't take effect until recently because of legal challenges. It requires voters to produce picture identification, such as a Texas driver's license, a concealed handgun license or a special election ID certificate issued just for voting.

When the U.S. Supreme Court this year struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act, the photo ID requirement was enacted. Next month's statewide election is the first one in which it will take effect, though Democrats and the U.S. Justice Department have sued anew.

Opponents argue the Republican-controlled Legislature created an illegal barrier to voting for poor minorities and people who live in rural areas. Minorities make up the majority of voters who do not have one of the six forms of ID required. Only the Election Identification Certificate is available for free from the Department of Public Safety.

Dallas County elections officials, meanwhile, are allowing voters at polling locations to immediately change their name in the voter registration database to match photo IDs.

"We're trying to make sure that we don't have anyone turned away because their name is different," elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said.

Opponents of the new law — particularly Democrats — say matching names is an unnecessary burden designed to hurt voter turnout. Since many women change their last name after getting married, critics say women are facing extra hurdles at the polls.

Republican supporters counter that the law combats voter fraud.

On a conference call on the issue last week, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said "women are feeling the hardships of this voter ID law."

She said: "I'm glad that my Republican colleagues at least trust women to state their own identity without having to ask their fathers or husbands to vouch for them."

Even a state district judge in Corpus Christi complained recently that the ID and voter registration she had used for years were questioned when she went to the polls because one listed her maiden name as her middle name.

Still, the secretary of state's office has said there haven't been reports of anyone having to vote provisionally because of a name issue. Pippins-Poole said many Dallas County voters had to sign affidavits but also said that no voters had been deterred from casting a ballot.

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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