Next Tuesday’s constitutional amendment election is the first statewide election which requires Texans to present a photo ID when they vote in person.
Early voting started Oct. 21 and ended Nov. 1. So far, the election has gone smoothly, but there is some bad information brewing about what you may or may not need at the polls, specifically that the name on your approved ID and the name on your voter registration must match exactly.
As one county election official put it, that’s just an urban legend.
When it comes to voting, the fact is that as long as your ID name and registration name are substantially similar, you will be able to vote a regular ballot, period. All you have to do is initial a box to confirm you are in fact that person.
You will not be flagged for voter fraud, you will not have to vote a provisional ballot, and you will not have to undergo a long process before you can cast your ballot. Your ballot will be a full, regular ballot that will be counted in exactly the same way as the ballots of other voters.
Poll workers may give you the opportunity to update your registration so it will match your ID for future elections. This step, however, is not required and is offered simply as a matter of convenience. As a voter, you may continue to initial the box each election and continue to use your same identification.
What does “substantially similar” mean? It means that your names might not match because of a missing suffix like Jr. or Sr. It includes the use of a nickname instead of a full name, and it includes changes of name due to marriage or divorce.
Poll workers across the state have been trained to account for such differences in ID and registration, and this training is working. During early voting, more than 200,000 ballots have been cast, and my office has received no reports of any voter having to cast a provisional ballot because his or her ID name and registration name did not exactly match.
In addition to accounting for name changes, nicknames, and other common differences that might appear in a name, poll workers are trained to look at the ID as a whole if there is a question about the voter’s identity. Poll workers will look for additional details such as if the birthdates match or if the addresses are the same.
Remember, though it was not previously required, many Texans have voted using their photo ID for many years without problems.
Also, please note it is not necessary for you to bring any additional information to the polls beyond your approved photo ID. You do not need to bring a birth certificate, marriage license or divorce decree to vote. Some voters choose to bring their voter registration card because it contains information that may expedite the voting process, but a voter registration card is not required.
As a reminder, there are seven forms of approved photo ID for voting in person. Four are issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety: a driver’s license, personal ID card, concealed handgun license or an Election Identification Certificate (EIC). The other three forms are a U.S. passport, citizenship certificate with your photo or a military ID with your photo.
EICs are available without charge from the Department of Public Safety for voters who do not have one of the six other forms of ID.
If you have any questions about photo ID requirements or voting in general, visit VoteTexas.gov or contact your county election official. Don’t let an urban legend or misinformation keep you from the polls.
John Steen is the 108th Texas Secretary of State, and, as chief election officer for the state, he oversees the uniform application and interpretation of election laws in Texas.