Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Texas escalates its war on women

Not content to simply deny women the health care they need, Texas Republicans are now doing their best to disenfranchise women.

It’s interesting that at a time when a Democratic woman candidate is mounting a serious campaign for the governor of the state, that Republicans are doing their best to prevent as many women from voting as they possibly can.

As I wrote earlier, the only way for Republicans to have any chance of winning contested elections is to prevent Democrats from voting and so far Texas has been successful in making sure blacks, Hispanics and college students don’t vote (although those successes are being challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice).

But now there is a new threat to Republican supremacy. Support for state senator Wendy Davis skyrocketed after her electrifying filibuster earlier this year. Women, tired of seeing Republicans control their reproductive rights, are gravitating to the Democratic Party in increasingly larger numbers (the 2012 Presidential election revealed the largest gender gap between the candidates in history) and Davis’ candidacy is attracting even more women to the Democrats.

So what’s a Republican to do? They gotta pass laws to prevent as many women from voting as possible.

Beginning Nov. 5, voters must present a photo identification to vote. It is estimated that 25 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Hispanics do not possess an ID that would satisfy the Texas requirements. Eighteen percent of individuals over 65 carry no photo ID at all. Student ID cards issued by colleges and universities are not acceptable. These are the groups that tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic and women are joining their ranks.

Here’s how the law disenfranchises a little more than a third of all women voters in Texas. The photo ID women show must contain their up-to-date legal name. That means if a woman is married, but her ID still lists her single name, she can’t vote. By the same token, if a woman is divorced, but her license still has her married name on it, sorry.

Now I have not poured through every law book in the state of Texas, but as far as I can tell right now, there is no law that requires a married woman to take her husband’s surname as her legal name. But you must take that name and put it on your license if you want to vote in Texas.

The estimated 34 percent of women disenfranchised by this law can obtain a state-issued ID that will allow them to vote but in order to obtain this ID they must provide an original birth certificate AND an original marriage license or divorce decree. Photocopies will not be accepted.

It costs about $20 to obtain original copies of those documents so forcing women to pay that money, plus the costs of mailing and handling, amounts to a poll tax, something expressly prohibited by the 24th Amendment. But Texas’s racist, misogynist Republicans have never let some piddling trifle such as the U.S. Constitution stop them before, so why should they start now?

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