On Election Day, Few Problems with Texas' Voter ID Law
Tuesday marked the first statewide election in which voters had to show a photo ID to cast their ballots, and though elections officials say the process went smoothly, some worry that could change in future elections with increased voter turnout.
Election officials from some of the state’s 10 most populous counties said there were few instances in which voters were unable to cast their ballots or had to cast provisional ballots because of questions about their ID. Still, because of the new law, thousands of voters were required to sign affidavits affirming their identity before voting.
State lawmakers in 2011 passed the voter identification bill, which requires voters to show one of seven state or federally issued forms of ID in order to vote. It was on hold after opponents, including the U.S. Department of Justice, sued the state, claiming that the law was unconstitutional. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June allowed the state to move forward in time for Tuesday's election.
John Oldham, the elections administrator in Fort Bend County, estimated that at least 40 percent of early voters in his county signed affidavits — often a result of discrepancies between a voter’s name on his or her photo ID and in the voter registry.
“We have not been made aware of any provisional ballots for photo ID,” Oldham said.
In Travis County, about 20 percent of the nearly 32,000 individuals who cast ballots during early voting had to sign affidavits because of the same discrepancy, said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.
“We think most of the people who had those issues were women,” DeBeauvoir said.
Many voting rights advocates worried that the law would particularly affect women, who often change their names after marriage or divorce.
Frank Phillips, the Denton County elections administrator, said that there were no major issues related to the voter ID law, but that “quite a few” individuals had to sign affidavits to vote.
Prominent elected officials, including 2014 gubernatorial hopefuls Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, were among the many voters required to sign affidavits because of name discrepancies. During early voting, Abbott carried a photo ID that included his middle name, and Davis’ photo ID had her maiden name. Neither names matched what was listed in the voter registry.
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