UPDATE on “former name” box:
@scATX I just got deputized as a voter registrar. it was explained that is an optional box In case you have different names in different IDs
— Andrew Turney (@Actur09) December 16, 2013
This weekend, I was alerted by Ashli McKee to a new issue with voter registration certificates (or as I’ll call them, voter cards) in Texas. Due to the new voter ID law, if you have filled out the “former name” box on your voter registration card, that will now show up on your voter card even if that is no longer your legal name (which it rarely is). To clarify: your former name will appear on your voter ID card as if it is your middle name.
This may cause real issues when you go to vote since the same law that forces your “former name” to be on your card also says that the name on your card must match your legal name on a form of acceptable ID.
It’s hard to see this issue as anything but attempting to disenfranchise people who have changed their name. Or to force them to committ perjury since your voter registration form is supposed to be filled out fully to your best knowledge.
Over the past week some of the approximately 600,000 orange voter registration certificates that hit Travis County mailboxes have angered voters. The issue involves the listing of “former name” on the certificate. While the Tax Office has always maintained records of former names, they were not included on voter registration cards until the passage of SB 14 (82nd Legislative Session), which now requires former names be included.
“Some voters who received their new voter registration certificate with a former name have complained that they never expected it to be included on the certificate,” commented Bruce Elfant, Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar. “It appears that the intent was to provide additional information for the new photo ID requirement, but this unintended consequence has upset many voters,” Elfant added.
Elfant advises, “If you would like your former name removed, submitting a name change and leaving the former name box blank will update the record to reflect that you no longer wish to have it listed. A new voter registration certificate will be sent within 30 days.” The former name will still appear in the county’s history records as required by law.
There are three ways to submit a name change:
- Complete a name change online here.
- Correct the information in the space provided on the back of the orange certificate and return it to Travis County Voter Registrar, P.O. Box 149327, Austin, TX 78714-9327.
- Submit a corrected voter registration application with the “change” box selected in person at any tax office location or by mail at Travis County Voter Registrar, P.O. Box 149327, Austin, TX 78714-9327.
For assistance by phone, contact the Voter Registrar at (512) 854-9473.
If you do not live in Travis County, contact your county tax office to find out what you need to do to fix the name on your voter card.
This morning, Ashli wrote this:
I have spoken with several people at the county voter registrar’s office, the state Elections Division, and Travis County Clerk. Nothing much new to report unfortunately – same basic information that if you care to actually have a correct card, you must follow the steps in the press release.
I have requested information on how many people this has affected and the gender breakdown, though I doubt I’ll receive it.
The card-correction website linked in the press release is still “down for maintenance” and none of those agencies know when it will be fixed.
They are still advising folks to leave the “Former Name” field blank when and if you are able to fill out the form, and then sign it certifying that the information is complete under penalty of perjury even though you know it isn’t, so that’s lovely.
Also, Ashli said that if you have had issues with your name on your voter card not related to the “former name” box and you live in Travis County:
Email Travis County Voter Registration Director of Communications Tiffany Seward at Tax_Office@co.travis.tx.us. She said they will look into such a circumstance and you may not have to do the other steps in that press release