Women May Have to Win Back the Right to Vote Less Than 100 Years After Gaining It

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Recently, we’ve noticed a growing trend in new ways of limiting the right to vote. From the pre-election voter purge in Virginia to the two tiered voting system being proposed in some Midwestern and Western states, the “right” to vote is becoming as hard to access as the “right” to an abortion. Perhaps that explains why the latest target for denying the right to vote is women voters themselves.

A new voter ID law in Texas is expected to be exceptionally difficult for the women of the state, as the only acceptable ID will be a valid photo ID with your legal name on it. As The New Civil Rights Movement points out, that is a requirement that would specifically make it harder for women to vote, since women tend to, for the most part, be the only ones who change their names during a marriage or a divorce.

“Women voters will have to show legal proof of a name change: a marriage license, a divorce decree, or court ordered change; and they have to be the original documents,” reports Jean Anne Esselink. “No photocopies allowed. This means thousands of women face the hassle of figuring out what they need and how to get it. Then they face at least a $20 fee, more if a woman doesn’t have the time to stand in line and wants it mailed. As a result, many women who are eligible to vote, won’t.”

Speaking from my own personal experience in changing my name after I got married eight years ago, it’s no simple endeavor. Copies of the marriage license have to be filed and certified, then a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles to fill out paperwork there, then the weeks to get that new ID in the mail. For a couple who has recently gotten married, often having just planned a major event months in the making, also perhaps taking time off from her job for the big day and, if lucky, a honeymoon, immediately changing all of her paperwork probably isn’t the highest of priorities, either.

Is it a minor burden, in comparison to some of the other roadblocks to voting that have been put into effect in the last few years? Sure. But like abortion restrictions, each voting restriction isn’t supposed to act as an immediate impediment on its own, but to slowly snowball until the point where only the people that they want to be able to easily access the voting booths are able to do so, and the rest will find voting to have too many hoops to get through.

It’s not a surprise that the voters that they do want to ensure are able to cast a ballot aren’t women, the elderly, the poor, and especially not people of color. In that respect, we are all in this together when it comes to defending the right to vote.

“[W]omen and people of color will not be denied once again. We must remember that ‘civil rights’ and ‘women’s rights’ are not separate and distinct, but actually overlap, intersect and intertwine,” writes Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, and Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a joint article on MSNBC.com. “Women formed much of the backbone of the civil rights movement that helped to inspire and advance the women’s movement. As we remember our shared histories, we must turn these recent suppressive acts into effective, joint organizing tools for the women’s rights and civil rights movements.”

Women and people of color have already joined together in many states to fight back against restrictive, repressive laws trying to limit their ability to access contraception and abortion services. Now, we will do the same to keep our right to vote and to force those lawmakers who would pass these bills to take our votes seriously.

And while we are at it, let’s take the legacy of Susan B. Anthony back from the right as well.