Did you change your name when you got married? Has your elderly mother or aunt stopped driving? Is your daughter or niece going to college in another state? In 11 states these normal life occurrences may result in these women not being able to vote. They are eligible American citizens who happen to be Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters. Is this what the predominantly Republican (and male) legislators in those 11 states intended?
Of course, many of these issues and hazards apply to the men in your life -- fathers, uncles, sons, among others. But women are the largest category of voters, and they may well be disproportionately disenfranchised by the new voter ID laws. Other categories who will be disproportionately affected are primarily those without current driver's licenses: older adults, African Americans, Latinos, young adults, people with disabilities and those with low incomes. God forbid you are a poor African-American woman who was born at home by a midwife 85 years ago and thus do not have a birth certificate.
With good reason there has been lots of press recently about the new voter ID laws in states like Pennsylvania. Several organizations, such the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School and 866ourvote, are focused on tracking the changes and helping to educate voters about the issues and what they need to do. But those organizations are not focused on helping those eligible voters do it -- i.e., get their valid ID. That is the issue that the new nonprofit VoteRiders is focused on.
VoteRiders was founded by Kathleen Unger, an attorney and political activist from Los Angeles, who has been passionately focused on election protection for over a decade. She realized with the recent changes to the laws in many states voter ID was becoming an equally important issue. According to Kathleen voter ID is a "new animal." Obtaining a valid voter ID under the strictest of these laws can be "very cumbersome, complicated, and costly." It boils down to the issue of fairness.
The 11 states that are most affected by these Voter ID laws are Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota.
In these states if you do not have a current government-issued or other required photo ID with your correct legal name that matches your voter registration name, your vote may not count even though you are registered to vote and have voted in the past. This raises all sorts of questions or issues you may never have considered like:
- Under what name did you register to vote (did you use your given name, your nickname or initials)?
- What qualifies as a valid photo ID?
- What qualifies as current or "unexpired"? and
- What happens if the name on your ID does not match the name under which you registered to vote? If I vote by provisional ballot, within how many days after November 6 must you bring valid ID to your local elections board or registrar?
These issues are daunting to those with time, money, education, energy, and transportation to tackle. Just think of your elderly aunt, your college freshman daughter, your neighbor with disabilities, and your friends who lack one or more of those resources. That is why VoteRiders has developed a campaign to pledge to take three citizens to get their voter ID. Check out the pledge here for details.
So here is what you can do. Download the new free Election Protection Smartphone Application at here. It will "provide all information and resources, in English and Spanish (branded Ya Es Hora), that voters need to fully participate in the 2012 elections."Specifically it will allow voters to:
- Verify their registration;
- Register to vote;
- Look up their polling place;
- Review key voting rules and regulations for their state;
- See what type of machine they vote on; and
- Contact Election Protection via phone (866-OUR-VOTE) or email to report a problem or get answers to their questions.
Even if you or your loved ones do not live in these 11 states, there are 19 additional states with some version of a voter ID law in effect. Check the requirements for your state here. Additionally, there is a wave of legislation in many states to enact or change voter ID laws to be very restrictive like those in these 11 states. If that were to happen, it is estimated that 32 million women would be affected.* That represents one out of four eligible women voters!
*According to a Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law study, 32 million women of voting age lack documentation of citizenship reflecting their current legal names.