FORT WORTH — State Sen. Wendy Davis went to the polls to vote early Monday and found herself facing a situation that many Texans may encounter:The name on her driver’s license and voter registration card were slightly different, so she had to sign an affidavit at the Southside Community Center stating that she is the person registered to vote.“It was a simple procedure,” said Davis, D-Fort Worth, who is running for governor in next year’s election. “I signed the affidavit and was able to vote with no problem.”But she’s worried that won’t be the case for other Texans — particularly women who have had a name change because of marriage or divorce.“There’s a tremendous concern it will create a problem for women who have been legally voting for years to be able to vote ... and that they may be surprised by it,” she said. “I hope the word will get out.“I hope we will continue to see women vote as they have in Texas.”This Nov. 5 election — with constitutional amendments and proposals such as school and park bond packages on the ballot — is the first statewide election in which Texans must show a photo ID to vote, the result of a law passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2011.State election officials say no dramatic problems have been reported with Texans not being allowed to vote, but they have reminded voters that their names don’t need to be identical on different forms of ID for them to vote.“As long as the names are substantially similar, all a voter will have to do is initial to affirm he or she is the same person who is registered,” Secretary of State John Steen has said. “Poll workers have been trained to account for names that might be substantially similar but not an exact match due to a number of circumstances including the use of nicknames, suffixes and changes of name due to marriage or divorce.”Davis will be on the ballot next year as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. She will face, among others, the winner of the Republican primary, which currently pits Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott against former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken.Davis added an amendment to the voter ID bill in 2011, stating that when names do not match exactly, voters can sign an affidavit letting them vote anyway, if the names are “substantially similar.”If the names are determined to be significantly different, voters may need to show certified copies or originals of certificates showing name changes.“For many women it will come as a surprise,” Davis said. “That’s my greatest concern, that women will show up to vote, they’ll be turned away because they don’t have that documentation.”Jane Westfall experienced a situation similar to Davis’ last week when she went to cast her vote at the subcourthouse in Mansfield.Her driver’s license stated that she is Jane C. Westfall; her voter registration certificate stated that she is Jane Caroline Westfall.“Both of these documents bear my signature as required,” she said. “I was challenged because these two documents, issued by the State of Texas, are different regarding my name.” Westfall said she was frustrated by the situation.“I signed because I wanted to vote, but will not bother with this nonsense again,” she said. “I am an American citizen, duly qualified and registered to vote and I had four temporary poll workers challenging my vote.“While I believe that voters should present an extra form of ID, this law is ridiculous,” she said. Early voting runs through Friday.
Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley