Today marks Women’s Equality Day—the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote. Women have come a long way since the early days of women’s suffrage which ultimately led to the passage of the 19th amendment- granting women the right to vote on August 26, 1920. As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26, marking the day women received the right to vote in 1920, a move has been affront for the past several years to disenfranchise women. Whether indirectly or directly, the result of many new voter ID laws may be the same. Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, requiring voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote place unreasonable burdens on many women when casting their vote.
States requiring voters to register with proof of citizenship is more problematic for women than for men. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school shows that only 66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal name. Women who have recently married or divorced and have changed their names—and whose passport, naturalization papers or birth certificate are in their former names—will then be required to obtain a certified court document showing the divorce decree or marriage certificate. These documents vary in cost from state to state but can cost upwards of $25 plus any time off work to obtain them. The certified court documents may not even be in the state where you now reside, further delaying and complicating matters.
For those women who are already registered to vote, the same problem will hold true. The photo ID must be in the same name that is registered with the Election Board. Hence, any recent changes in name from divorce or marriage will require certified proof of the name change along with the new photo ID. Of course, most men need not endure such onerous paper trail requirements. But U.S. women change their names in 90 percent of marriages. Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney for the League of Women Voters, says “women in particular are going to be impacted,” by requirements that they produce documents authenticating every name change in cases of marriage and divorce.
Women hold the keys to the 2014 midterm election. Since the 1980’s women have been voting more than men. In 2008 10 million more women showed up at the polls than men. And in battleground states where women outvote men in the hundreds of thousands, women’s votes are crucial. In 2012 Presidential election, women represented over 50% of the vote. And in every election since 1996, women were more likely to vote than men. And equal access to the polls is paramount for all. Women and particularly women of color who fought so hard for suffrage and became the last to get that right must continue to fight oppressive voter ID laws.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, C-Span, BET, Sky News, CBC-Canada among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center.