Are Texas Lawmakers After Women Voters?

One of the most important rights of women in this country is the right granted to us by the Nineteenth Amendment. This right was earned by the women starting back in the mid-nineteenth century who wrote articles and speeches; lectured across the nation; marched and lobbied; protested, often risking their own personal freedom as well as personal injury all for the right to equal voting rights. Women fought so that they could stand next to their husbands, brothers, and sons and have an equal voice in decisions that effect every citizen of this country. Although passed by Senate on June 14, 1919, as of August 18, 1920 women were officially granted that right.

Rick Perry by Gage Skidmore

Rick Perry, Governor of Texas. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore. Used under the rights of the Creative Commons license.

However, in an attempt to curtail that right, Texas officials have just passed a law, which takes effect on November 5 of this year. The new law states that, in order to vote every citizen must show up-to-date photo identification. For most people, this isn’t really a big issue. But what about everyone else? The Brennan Center for Justice has released a poll showing that approximately 66% of citizens have current, updated legal photo identification. What about the remaining 34% you ask? That’s a good question. According to the results of the poll, approximately 7% of those polled have no official documentation. 7% is roughly 13 million Americans. How does this happen, since identification is required for everything from enrollment into your first school to getting a job? Assuming this is only counting legal adults (since those polled were probably not children), how does someone even get to the age of “legal adult” without proof of citizenship? Based on Brennan’s results it seems that financial hardship is the primary reason for these numbers.

Focusing on Texas for their figures, in order to obtain the necessary documentation to prove that you are either legally married or legally divorced, you need to pay $20.00 for a legal copy of your marriage certificate/divorce decree. If you are standing in the office that handles that transaction, that’s your total cost. The office is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday through Friday, which is fine if you can get time away from work or happen to have a day off during that time. For those who cannot get away from work or simply cannot get to the office in Austin there is the option to request the documents be sent by mail. This adds an additional $13 in fees and your wait time jumps from the 30 minutes in office to anywhere from 10-15 days to 6-8 weeks, depending on how you mail in your request. With elections for Texas’ constitutional amendments starting, that’s not an option for anyone who wishes to participate any time soon. If you overnight your information through a service like UPS or FedEx (another $15 or so, depending) it will be back to you in about 2 weeks. So, now it has become $33.00 plus mailing costs just to get a copy of the document needed for a new photo ID. Obtaining a photo ID with the updated name change is an additional $11.00, unless you don’t already have one in which case it becomes $16.00 for an identification card or $25.00 for a driver’s license. There is also the added cost of travel to the Department of Public Safety office since many states require you to handle this in person.

All this being said, why does this seem as if it’s being aimed at women? Probably because such a high number of women simply haven’t gone through the necessary steps to acquire the updated identification. That’s not a point of blame, just a fact. Back to our Brennan results, only about 66% of those women with access to any legal documentation have updated information. It states that, based on the 2000 Census that means as many as 32 million voting-aged women only have access to documentation that isn’t current with their legal name. Granted the poll is from 2006 and there has been a more recent census taken, but that would mean that these numbers are likely higher.

Women won’t be the only ones effected by this new law. Students, minority voters and most people from low-income families will also be hurt by the new legislation. However, with Senator Wendy Davis announcing her probable run for the Governor seat it would seem that conservative law-makers definitely want to do what they can to keep that position filled by someone who will better represent their needs, and the majority of voting-aged men seem to be unaffected by this law. If you remove students, minorities and low-income males from those figures then the conservatives have just created a voting pool of mostly rich, mostly right-winged, mostly Caucasian males that will decide the outcome of elections in Texas. Somehow that doesn’t seem like it’s representative of the entire state.