Competing narratives about Texas voter ID law

Oct 30, 2013

Two contrasting story lines have emerged about the enforcement of Texas' voter ID law during its first widespread use in an election. 

The first, which is sure to warm the hearts of the law's backers, is that the new law is proving to be "no big deal." Or, as a headline Tuesday in the Austin American-Statesman put it: "Voter ID rollout smooth." Even as late as Tuesday night, supporters of the law were tweeting the money quote from Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, who said, “It’s not a big deal at all,” and that any issues have been “quickly and easily resolved.” 

The supporters of the law, of course, would like to seize on this and stories like it to demonstrate that the fuss made by the groups fighting the law is overblown. 

The second story line presents a less benign view, focusing on the frequency with which voters have had to sign affidavits because their names did not exactly match up on documents presented at the polls. Stories so far have focused on the prevalence of voting with an affidavit (one out of seven early voters in Dallas County) and on the political bigshots caught up in the new provision — both Wendy Davis and, surprisingly, Greg Abbott

The affidavit issue so far is proving popular with Democratic groups, which hope to use any resultant hubbub to motivate women to get out and vote. That's because the affidavit requirement could disproportionately affect women, who frequently change names when they get married or divorced. 

To illustrate the point, Talking Points Memo spoke with Jessica McIntosh, communications director for the Democratic fundraising group EMILY's List. She said that "women are taking note of the voter ID law and how they create new barriers to voting and 'are going to see through it'" and that "the law is likely to push more women voters in places like Texas and elsewhere to vote for Democrats." 

"I mean that's ... historically where women voters are going, and I think it's pretty obvious because of the regressive agenda that Republicans are pushing," McIntosh said. 

Selling that argument effectively is doubly important for Democrats, who see capturing the women's vote as key to Davis' chances of winning the Governor's Mansion.