Texas Voter ID Problem: The “Former Name” Box On Voter Registration


UPDATE on “former name” box:

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.

From the Travis County Tax Office:

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

Other links:

7 Responses

  1. Amy Pownall says:

    This really stinks… no, reeks of voter suppression. When I voted in November the poll worker actually said my registration was “perfect” – I have been using my married name for 27 years, voting at the same address for 12 years and suddenly my voter card does not match my photo ID.
    Voter ID laws create voter suppression, especially for women. Maybe the folks that did this thought that we would just give up and not vote, but I say “oh hell, no” I am personally going to make sure that women who might not have NEVER voted before get registered, prepared and to the polls so they can join me in voting out the asses that decided to try to stop us in this way. I’ve been a proud Texan for almost 51 years but it’s getting harder and harder to love Texas. Bring on the Blue!

  2. Amy Cortez says:

    My voter registration office (Jefferson County) told me that your former name can appear on the left side of the card, as long as the name on the right side of the card matches your driver’s license. (I specifically referenced my driver’s license, I assume this applies to all official forms of ID.)

    I am uncomfortable with this. I suppose I’ll see come election time but this really feels like an attempt to suppress votes. Why should my maiden name even be on my voter registration card?

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  4. baterista9 says:

    Bexar County voter here. Thanks for the heads up.

    When I registered in Texas some 30 years ago, I was disappointed that my voter ID card read MARRIED, FIRST MAIDEN. I prefer MARRIED, FIRST MIDDLE; both passport and driver’s license are in that format.

    I inquired about changing the name format back then, but was told it was not allowed. Over the three decades, before photo ID requirement, I never had a problem voting; I merely signed the voting-day register to match my ID.

    When Bexar’s registrar announced the opportunity to change names to match photo IDs, I jumped at the chance. Turns out my new voter ID reads MARRIED, FIRST MIDDLE MAIDEN. I have not yet voted with the new card, but I doubt the slight disagreement with photo IDs will be challenged.

    I used to work for a government agency that issued thousands, if not millions, of photo IDs each year. Name disagreements between application and supporting documents were most often resolved with common sense.

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  6. Michael G says:

    Wait… Texas has a broken web site! OMG! Call out the troops! Call out the Fox News to report it day and night as if it is going to KILL PEOPLE IN THEIR SLEEP! Oh, wait… It’s OK for Fox News if women can’t vote. I forgot there for a moment

    When you finish your fight to vote, please vote for those who will remove the fight to vote.

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