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Debate Over Photo ID Resurfaces With Wendy Davis' Vote

Shelley Kofler
Sen. Wendy Davis talked to voters after casting her early ballot Monday.

Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor, had to sign an affidavit before she was allowed to vote early in Fort Worth on Monday. 

  A new law being enforced for the first time requires a voter show a valid photo ID that includes the voter’s name exactly as it appears on the elections department’s registration list. 

Sen. Davis’s driver’s license included her maiden name, Wendy Russell Davis.  Her voter registration card listed her as Wendy Davis.

“I was required to sign an affidavit demonstrating I am the person who is on the voter registration card,” explained Davis after casting her ballot.

Davis was only asked to initial a box on an official election document at the polling place, but she’s concerned that women who’ve married or divorced and have changed their last names will have to go home and bring back additional documentation like marriage or divorce certificates.

“That’s my greatest concern- that women will show up to vote (and) they’ll be turned away because they don’t have that documentation and that women will be disenfranchised as a consequence of the interpretation of the Voter ID law as it’s been applied,” said Davis.   

Tarrant County Elections Supervisor Steve Raborn says that shouldn’t happen.

Raborn says elections judges are trained to look for additional verification on the photo ID if a woman’s last name has changed significantly.

“Even changes of name for whatever reason- marriage or divorce- they can use things like the address, and date of birth and the photo to verify the identity so we aren’t expecting any difficulty,” said Raborn. 

Concern about how the new law affects women has gained traction now that Davis is in the race for governor.

Her leading Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, supports the Voter ID law, and as Attorney General he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold it when a federal court blocked its implementation.

Davis, like most Democrats at the legislature, opposes the photo ID requirement, claiming it makes voting more difficult for seniors and low income Texans, as well as women.

Republicans have denied they’re trying to keep likely Democratic voters from casting ballots.  They say they want to reduce fraud, even though there’s little evidence of voter impersonation at the polls.

Statewide the Secretary of State’s office says it hasn’t received any reports of voters being required to provide additional documentation because of names that don’t match.

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Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.