Voter ID Laws Target Women’s Votes

Women voters beware. Right-wing attempts to push through tougher voter ID laws may keep you from voting in November.

I’m not talking about zombie moms. I’m not talking about women trying to pull the wool over some poll worker’s eyes in order to vote in a different town. I’m not even talking about undocumented women who some worry might be sneaking into your local voting booth.

I’m talking about women who just haven’t gotten around to changing their names on their driver’s licenses because of the paperwork and time required — either because they’ve gotten married or divorced.

Most of the news covering the GOP’s efforts to keep certain groups from the polls in November focus on the elderly, college students and people of color — groups that trended Democratic in 2008 and helped elect Barack Obama to the White House. While backers of voter photo identification laws want us to think these are just reasonable efforts to protect us from voter fraud, studies show there is virtually no voter fraud in America to protect us from. And to the extent that such fraud has been found, there has been no impact on the outcome of those elections.

Soooo …. then what would be the other reason to spend so much money and time and effort to fix something that’s not broken? Just some patriots doing their damnedest to protect us by making sure that only 100% pure Americans get to cast their ballots as they worry that our country will be overrun by illegal Communist forces who don’t even take the time to vote for American Idol?

OK, I made that last part up. But the reasons so many on the conservative right give for pushing their unprecedented effort to alienate voters who have legitimate reasons for not having photo identification are as follows:

1. Everyone should have a driver’s license. Yes, that would be nice. But there are plenty of places where people don’t drive to get where they need to go. Often college students haven’t gotten around to driving even though they could. And older voters whose minds are sharp but whose reflexes have slowed down aren’t on the road anymore and don’t need to renew. Are the votes of these groups any less valid because they’re not driving?

2. Voter IDs are free. Except that they’re not. You need an official copy of your birth certificate or marriage license to get one, which costs money. If you don’t live near the places to get the back-up documentation, there’s the cost of gas or cab fare (if you live in a place that has cabs). If you live in a rural area where the only place to get the required documentation is the county seat, we’re talking about the better part of a work day to do it. Conservatives claim $20 or $30 here or there is surely not a barrier. Except for plenty of people in this country, who are legitimately entitled to vote, $20 or $30 is food money for the whole week or the cost of getting to and from work that can’t be spared for other things.

3. People who don’t get an ID are lazy and don’t deserve to vote. Maybe those actual words haven’t been uttered, but that is part of the underlying message from those who believe that only people with government-issued photo IDs should be allowed to vote in the election this November. For those who can’t see that for many people there are significant obstacles, both physically and financially, to getting a government-issued photo ID, it’s apparently morphed into the idea that if you can’t get past those barriers, you’re not deserving of exercising your constitutional right.

But let me tell you about “lazy.”

While it’s pretty easy to change your name on documents and IDs after you get married, it’s harder to switch it back. When I divorced my first husband, it took me months to find the time in my work schedule to jump through all the hoops necessary to change my name, and I even had the judge include language in my divorce decree to make that switch “easier.” I had to make sure I had official documents and notarized copies of my divorce papers, and had to go to government offices to change my Social Security card and then driver’s license. Plus I had to find the time to take off from work to do it, because the offices I needed to go to were only open during business hours. So if I couldn’t squeeze it in on a lunch hour, I had to use vacation time or get docked pay to do it. And I had my own car, as well as an employer who was willing to be flexible and understood that there would be long lines I’d have to wait in because everyone else was using their lunch hour for similar official errands. And it was still a time-consuming pain in the you-know-what.

Efforts to cut hundreds of thousands of Americans from the voter lists is anything but innocuous. And even one Pennsylvania lawmaker made it clear (in public, no less) that the main reason for advocating for stricter voter ID laws in the Keystone State — a crucial swing state — is to ensure a Mitt Romney victory. The right-wing crusade to disenfranchise as many Americans as possible isn’t about voter fraud or protecting a process. It’s to game a system by trying to convince voters that we should fear something that is virtually non-existent.

The studies that reveal there is little voter fraud also show that voter ID efforts do more to prevent eligible voters from casting ballots than to protect us from undocumented, non-citizens trying to wrest our democracy from us for their own nefarious purposes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly worried about the nuns who wanted to vote but had an ID issue. Unless they were these nuns:

But this is a non-issue for women in the 21st century, right? We live in a time when fewer brides change their names when getting married. In my daughter’s school, you could make that argument, where I’d guess about half the moms I know have kept their maiden names rather than changing to their husband’s last names. But across the country, somewhere close to 90 percent of women take their spouse’s last name when they say “I do.” Factor in a divorce rate of 50% and the fact that almost one-third of eligible women voters don’t possess a government issued photo ID, and it doesn’t take a genius to do the math (or the politics) to realize what’s really going on.

Where I vote, it’s not necessary, at least for the moment, to show an approved photo ID. The poll workers ask for my name and my address and check to see if I’m registered. When I pulled out my purse to rummage for my bifocals so I could see the voting form I was signing last time, they thought I was going for my driver’s license and told me that wasn’t necessary. So, yes, it IS possible that someone could show up at my voting location and claim to be me if they knew my full name, my full address, and the last four digits of my Social Security number. But the odds of that happening are almost as remote as winning the lottery buying one Powerball ticket.

Ladies, you shouldn’t have to worry about this, but why take a chance? If the super-conservatives are going to make a stink about this, there is time to beat them at their own game. I know it’s hard in the dog days of summer when kids are in tow and there’s not even a respite of a couple of hours of summer camp to get to the Social Security office or the DMV or the county courthouse to make sure you’ve jumped through all the hoops to have that official photo ID just in case. But if you are determined to vote in November, please don’t leave your vote to chance. You shouldn’t have to hand over a driver’s license, but you might have to. So let’s help each other out in the next couple of months when it comes to keeping an eye on each others’ kids so we can all make sure we’ve got the appropriate identification for the voting booth. Just in case.

Image via iStockphoto

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