Women of Texas, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is here to tell you how good you have it. In fact, he recently said, “I’m proud to say there is nobody in the state of Texas who has done more to fight to help women than I have in the past decade.” You’ll have to excuse the man. He’s running for governor, and it’s becoming clear that his right hand doesn’t know what the far-right hand is doing.
Abbott says he has prosecuted sex traffickers and collected $27 billion in child support. He deserves credit for doing his job, but the applause might be louder if his campaign weren’t lying about Sen. Davis’s record and giving a forum to sexist attacks on her.
He went trolling for e-mail addresses by circulating a petition that claimed, “Wendy Davis wants to bring gun control to Texas.” Hogwash. Among Davis’ pro-2nd Amendment votes is one giving the Attorney General the power to block local gun control laws. Let’s hope Abbott’s aim is better with a gun.
That lie quickly became a sideshow as thousands of people left comments on Abbott’s Facebook page that can’t be printed in newspapers. Abbott’s campaign deleted a couple of death threats but left up these and others like them: “She looks like a throw rug,” wrote one. “Piss on her,” suggested another. Someone called her a “whiney, panty waggin’ broad.” The comment “Someone needs to flush her where she belongs” was what passed for subtlety on this litany of online abuse.
This happened as voters started trickling into the polls to vote on constitutional amendments. Texans are always bragging, but no one can hold a candle to us when it comes to not voting. Texas has the worst voter participation rates in the entire country.
To Abbott, that’s a good start. Despite the fact that he can cite only two cases of voter impersonation in the last decade, Abbott pushed a law now in effect requiring voters to show a valid photo ID before voting. Wildly popular and seemingly logical, the law ignores real life. For example, two-thirds of Texas women do not have a photo ID that shows their current legal name, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. To vote, the names have to match.
This happened to me when I voted. My driver’s license spells out my middle name, whereas the voter file only uses the initial. I filled out a form stating that I, Jason Andrew Stanford, was indeed Jason A. Stanford, and was allowed to vote. At best, Voter ID poses a useless bureaucratic annoyance to voters. At worst, it’s another reason not to vote in a state where hardly anyone votes.
The women who have different names on their photo ID and their voter registration cards have it better than the Texans who don’t have an ID at all, says Sondra Haltom, the president of Empower the Vote Texas, a non-profit defending voters’ rights. She found that the Secretary of State, which runs Texas elections, says 795,955 voters lack either a state ID or a driver’s license.
Many of these voters, Haltom has found, are little old ladies who don’t drive or need an ID-except now to vote-and now they have long since lost the supporting documentation needed to get an ID card.
“Voter ID disproportionately affects women simply because women more often change their names when they get married and then change them back when they get divorced,” said Haltom. “I think this is an unintended consequence that those who wrote this law didn’t think through the details. Now we have the unintended problem of women having to jump through hoops in order to vote.”
If there’s one thing women like it’s having to jump through hoops simply because they’re women, especially to prevent something that almost never happens. And Abbott is adding insult to inconvenience by running a deceitful, negative campaign that runs down Wendy Davis partly because of her gender.
Any more defending from you, Greg, and the women of Texas might get mad enough to vote. Heckuva job, Abbott.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and MSNBC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasStanford.