Texas Judge Nearly Barred From Voting In Her Own Courthouse Due To Surprising Glitch In Voter ID Law (VIDEO)

Texas voter ID law affects women, too, this shocked judge discovers

Out of of 1.4 million voters without ID, only 41 got new Texas Voter ID cards. Plus, the new law almost kept this judge from voting in her own court house. Photo of District Court Judge Sandra Watts screen captured from KIII News video footage.

We all knew the tough new Texas voter ID law would keep a lot of seniors, minorities, students and other folks who tend to vote Democratic from voting. Think Progress reports that an estimated 1.4 million voters don’t have the required photo IDs. Yet, only 41 of these people — just 41 — have gotten hold of those spiffy, new Texas voter IDs that are supposed to be so free and easy to get. The U.S. Justice Department has even taken action against the State of Texas, claiming they’re still in violation of the now-gutted Voting Rights Act. The law went into effect back in July, but was put to the test on Monday, October 21st, when early voting began for a series of amendments to the state constitution.

Little did we know, the new Texas voter ID law would cause trouble another constituency that leans towards the Democrats: Women. A little known clause in the law requires that the names entered on a voter’s ID and in their voter registration records be “substantially similar.” This means that a lot of women who changed their last names when they got married — or reclaimed their maiden names when getting divorced — may get tangled in red tape when they hit the polls.

How the new Texas voter ID law nearly kept this judge from voting in her own courthouse.

KIII TV reports that when Texas’ 117th District Court Judge tried to cast a ballot in her Corpus Christie courthouse on Monday, she got an nasty surprise. A voting official compared Judge Sandra Watts’ drivers’ license with her voting records and found that the names listed were not the same. Watts’ drivers’ license has her maiden name as her middle name. Meanwhile her voting records have the middle name from Watts’ other legal documents, which is the one listed on her birth certificate.

Watts told Lawrence O’Donnell from MSNBC that, “I was surprised that what I’ve done for 49 years was not sufficient to vote at this time.” After all, she has had her driver’s license for 52 years, has been voting or 49 years, got married in 1964, and has not moved in over 20 years. Plus (though of course no one said anything about this), Watts happens to be a white, college-degreed professional. In other words, not the sort of person one would expect to be kept from voting by the new Texas voter ID law.

Here’s the video with Sandra Watts explaining to Lawrence O’Donnell how the new Texas voter ID law may keep women and Mexican-Americans from voting.

[youtube:http://youtu.be/PPQsJKpZKCM]

Seniors, youth, minorities, women, AND transgendered people may have trouble with the new Texas voter ID law.

An estimated 1.4 million seniors, young people, and minorities lack photo IDs for several reasons. Seniors often don’t drive and don’t have the required birth certificate because public record-keeping was sketchy back in the day. Young people are often too young to have a paper trail, and too poor to have a car or driver’s license. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other minorities also often lack photo IDs due to poverty or youth.

Of course, over half of the folks described above are women. But, as Watts’ story shows, even rich or middle-class white women might get barred from voting in upcoming elections. Wendy Weiser from the Brennan Center for Justice told Maya Rhodan from TIME, “A full 34% of women don’t have documents proving citizenship with their current name on it.” Rhodan’s article adds that 29% of transgender men and women lack valid IDs for their current gender.

What happens when there’s a problem with your name?

Watts explained to O’Donnell that election officials get an awful lot of power when it comes to deciding whether the names on your photo ID and your voter records are “substantially identical” (the legal term for “close enough”). Watts got to vote, but she had to sign an AKA (also-known-as) affidavit. If she had this much trouble, one shudders to think of what may happen to a person of color. A racist official at the voting booth would have a huge scope to challenge blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and others if there’s even the slightest difference in their names.

Watts warned the versions of your last name are not close enough, officials have the power to toss out your vote. They’ll have you vote with a “provisional ballot,” which only becomes valid if you can get your hands on acceptable ID within a scant six days. Even so, provisional votes won’t even get tallied until after the election, when the Election Board decides whether or not your vote will count.

Watts’ verdict: the new Texas voter ID law takes away our right to vote.

Watts told O’Donnell that she reviewed the new Texas voter ID law and was disturbed by what she found:

“There is some interesting language in the law. I’ve never seen it before. I have a constitutional right to vote… And that constitutional right now says I have the right to offer myself to vote, and an election official is going to determine whether I am accepted to vote. This is going to disproportionately, adversely affect women.”

That’s right. In the state of Texas, even if the new Texas voter ID law lets you vote, an election official can take that right away on a whim.

For a list of acceptable IDs for voting under the new Texas voter ID law, visit VoteTexas.Gov.

But what do “real” women think about the new Texas voter ID law?

Meanwhile, the jury’s out on whether people with “name similarity” issues will be able to vote, now that the Texas voter ID law is in effect. Hopefully, all the bad PR will make voting officials a bit more cooperative than they were with Judge Watts. When the news got out, Texas women took to Facebook and other social media to express their anxiety. A politically active liberal named Shannon, who whose Facebook handle is “Mama Told You Not To Come” posted a link and angrily wrote:

“This means I will have a problem voting now because my voting card is just like the judges’. My vote probably won’t count either.”

She later called the Texas Secretary of State’s office, which assured her that she wouldn’t be booted out of the polling place because of her middle name.

Friends from other voter ID states chimed in with their tales of woe. A woman from Arizona wrote:

“The state of Arizona gave me grief about my middle freaking initial. When I was divorced and “restored to her maiden name” the state of AZ interpreted that as the state taking away my middle names, and said I could no longer use them.”

One thing we know for sure … it shouldn’t ever be this hard for people to vote in America.

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