If Angelina Jolie hasn’t changed her voter registration and driver’s license, Mrs. Brad Pitt might not be able to cast a ballot in this year’s mid-term election.
That’s not how I want to be like Angelina. But if you live in a state that requires only certain kinds of photo ID in order to vote and you’re a woman, the odds are high that you’ll be turned away from the polls this week. And the odds go up exponentially if you live in Texas.
Most of the outrage surrounding states’ efforts to mandate that you can’t vote unless you have a specific form of identification — usually a driver’s license — has focused on people of color, people who live in poverty and the elderly. Why? Because often those people can’t financially afford to get a driver’s license, and not just because of the cost of the license itself. There’s the expense of driving lengthy distances to get to a DMV, as well as the cost of getting supporting documents, like birth certificates.
Don’t take it from me. Take it from Notorious R.B.G. herself — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In a vehement dissent in a recent case where the Supreme Court overturned a Texas decision and held that the State of Texas could move forward with possibly the strictest voter ID law in the nation, Ginsburg criticized Texas for disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters who, because they lived hours from any office that could issue the “proper” ID form, would be cut off from voting without the state making reasonable efforts to resolve that or to make sure people knew there was an alternate state-issued free ID they could get. And that, she says, threatens us all:
“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”
But there was something else that Ginsburg focused on in taking on the Court’s majority; it’s not a pretty piece of history, but one that the Texas court acknowledged was a significant factor in its original decision (the one the Supreme Court overruled):
“The District Court noted particularly [the] evidence — largely unchallenged by Texas — regarding the State’s long history of official discrimination in voting, the statewide existence of racially polarized voting, the evidence of overly racial political campaigns, the disproportionate lack of minority elected officials, and the failure of elected officials to respond to the concerns of minority voters.”
But if you’re a middle-class white woman, you have just as much of chance of being told to step back from the voting booth in Texas and other states like Wisconsin, Florida, and Indiana, just to name a few. Because if the name on your driver’s license doesn’t match EXACTLY the name on your voter registration, you can be sent packing before you can exercise you right to vote.
Have you recently gotten married? Divorced? Never got around to changing your name on your license and other important documents? Is there a middle initial missing? A typo? If so, good luck trying to convince that poll worker you are who you say you are so that you can cast a regular ballot rather than a provisional one, which can be challenged and might never get counted. In a country where over half of marriages end in divorce, and approximately 80 percent of women still change their names when they get married, it doesn’t take a degree in higher math to understand that women of all colors, ages, shapes, and sizes run a very real risk of having their election day voices squelched, along with those of the groups political conservatives are specifically trying to keep away from the ballot box.
That inadvertent consequence could bite the Republicans in the a$$, though, since some polling suggests that the majority of women voters are leaning GOP in this mid-term election. Now that would be sweet justice — to have the very people who are hanging their chances of winning on keeping people away from their polling places, lose because the women they need so badly haven’t updated their driver’s licenses after getting married or divorced.
Think this is nothing to worry about? Just remember, in Texas voting last year, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis — a Texas state legislator — had to sign an affidavit before she was permitted to cast a ballot because he driver’s license didn’t match exactly with her voter registration. How bad was the discrepancy? Her driver’s license read, ” Wendy Russell Davis,” and her voter registration form read only, “Wendy Davis.”
Now I ask you, how many of you have the exact same name on all forms of your ID? Middle initial vs. middle name? Your voter registration has your birth name but your driver’s license now has your married name? Are we all saying goodbye to the Voting Rights Act? And don’t forget how this will impact the 2016 presidential election — and a possible Hillary Clinton presidential candidacy — if the states with the big electoral ballot counts fall victim to voter ID laws that jeopardize the votes of the very groups she will be focusing on to win.
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming anthology exploring our society’s love/hate relationship with Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!