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It’s become a sort of sour running joke; every time yet another shocking, revolting, or just plain insanely stupid story about Texan Republicans hits the news, people shake their heads. “What do you expect; it’s Texas.” Like that’s now explanation enough.
Yet even Texans are getting fed up with the bad rep the Lone Star State is garnering, and Republicans know it. It’s obvious they know it; they’ve had to “Perrymander” their way into power because there just really aren’t enough rich, old, white, male conservatives in Texas to carry the majority of the vote if they actually had to play fairly. They have openly, shamelessly bragged about their intentions to prevent Democrats from ever winning an election in Texas again. So far, they've succeeded.
But now there's a new, and even bigger danger to Republican control of Texas. Support for Wendy Davis swelled after her electrifying filibuster on the floor of the Texas, her popularity growing large enough to become a threat to Republican hegemony, rattling their confidence. Davis has earned enough political capital to have a real shot at taking the governorship of Texas. It’s no longer enough to prevent blacks, Hispanics or college students from voting, so Texas Republicans have figured out how to target the biggest group they fear might challenge their death grip on the throat of Texas politics – women.
It's a simple plan: Don’t allow women to vote.
As of November 5th, when Texas’s strict voter ID law goes into effect, voters will be required to show a photo ID at the polls. Twenty-five percent of eligible African-American voters and 16% of Hispanics do not have an ID that would satisfy the new Texas voter ID requirements. Eighteen percent of people over the age of 65 do not have a current ID at all, and student ID card issued by their college or university are not acceptable to allow them to vote in Texas. Unsurprisingly, most of these voters tend to vote for Democrats.
But there's an extra, very nasty little sting in the tail: these approved voter IDs also require that voters have their up-to-date legal name at the polls. This effectively impacts a huge proportion of women, particularly those who are married. Only 66% of voting age women has ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship and what Texas considers a "legal" name. This is largely significant because married women don't always update their documents with their married names, while changing names after marriage isn't something that usually affects male voters. 34% of women voters – those who are even aware that such an ID will be necessary or they will be prevented from voting – are hurrying to update their documents, not so easy to do and, tellingly, not that quick. Texas is making obtaining this photo ID with a so-called "up-to-date" name as difficult as possible; women must show original documents, along with both a birth certificate and proof of marriage, divorce degree, or court-ordered changes. Photocopies just aren’t good enough.
As far as I can tell, there's no law in Texas that requires married women to take their husband's surnames, but by the time women who have been prevented from voting finish contesting the legality of this law, the election will be over, and the point will be moot.
Bad enough if you happen to be amongst the 16% of people over the age of 65 who don’t have birth certificates, you’re just tough out of luck. If you happen to have been born outside the States and obtaining an original birth certificate isn’t possible, too bad so sad for you. Disabled and elderly women are less able to travel any long distances or endure having to wait for hours in lengthy lines. Who cares? Not Texas. Then there’s the additional financial burden on poor women with a minimum charge of $20 to receive new copies of these documents, work schedules and travel expenses mean paying more to have them mailed, effectively becoming a poll tax, something the 24th Amendment prohibits – but piffling details like people not smart enough to be born into wealth or upholding the Constitution hasn’t stopped Texas before, why should it now?
Women’s votes matter. More women than men vote, and women make up the majority of minority, student and elderly voters. Black women in particularly have the highest turn out of any voting group, at 66%. Women voters were the deciding factor in electing Barack Obama, more than any other demographic block, and determined 22 of the 23 Senate races in 2012 that allowed Democrats to retain control. Texas’s new voter ID law and its draconian requirements will effectively remove 34% of women who would ordinarily be eligible to vote from being able to do so, a significant enough proportion that could ensure an election in the Republican Party’s favour.
At some point, Texas is going to have to do more than be a laughingstock for the rest of the country to roll its eyes at and dismiss as being a State chock full o' nuts. If the federal government can't stop Texas from behaving like a private oligarchy, then Texans themselves are going to have to have to galvanize their women, their minorities, their students, their elderly – even what percentage still exists of white, old, rich men who love democracy and the rights of their fellow Texans – to come out in unprecedented numbers that even Republican ID laws and gerrymandering can't resist, and get rid of the 19th century racist, misogynist throw-backs currently infesting the halls of the Texas legislature. Time for a revival of REAL Texan gallantry.