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A wave of new voter identification laws in states across the country have drawn plenty of criticism, and rightly so. They’re a thinly veiled attempt by Republicans to suppress voting by the poor, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic and tend to vote for Democrats.
But the news coverage has missed another class of victims: women. Specifically those who’ve changed their names because of marriage or divorce.
The laws have set off a vigorous debate over women’s voting rights in Texas ahead of next week’s elections there. Supporters of Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor of the Lone Star State in 2014’s elections, have been protesting that if the state’s new law remains in effect, it will make it harder for women — and presumably many of Davis’ supporters — to vote in a year when the state’s major offices will be on the ballot.
A growing trend
That debate needs to go national because the rights of all American women are being compromised as more states turn to similar voter registration and voting models.
Millions of women voters could be disenfranchised when there are discrepancies between voter registration information and the information on state ID cards. The impact could be significant because of the huge numbers of women who change their last names when they marry.
Close to 90% of women change their names when they say “I do” or get a divorce. With 14 states (and counting) allowing same-sex marriage (and divorce), there are surely more name changes to come in that community.
Factor in a divorce rate of 40%-50% and, according a 2006 survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, 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 and see that women voters are facing a major setback.
Divorce complicates things
While it’s pretty easy to change your name on documents and IDs after you get married, it’s much harder to switch back.
When I divorced my first husband, it took me months to find the time to obtain notarized copies of my divorce papers and to get the necessary government offices to change my Social Security card and driver’s license.
The trend by many states to require government-issued photo IDs in order to vote is a threat to women voters across the country in a way that won’t impact men.
Women vote more
Fewer than 10 states allow men to change their last names upon marriage in the same way as women.
There is no doubt that the current conservative efforts to make it harder to vote because of matching ID requirements will result in a new level of women’s disenfranchisement. Women make up 51% of registered voters, and women vote in larger numbers than men. So it stands to reason that women will be heavily impacted by these restrictions and could definitely swing an election outcome.
If women want to protect the rights our foremothers struggled to give us, is it time for women’s suffrage 2.0?
You bet it is.
Originally published at USA Today