Gov. Rick Perry said he cast a ballot without any problems Wednesday in the first Texas elections under a new voter ID law that's affecting the two main candidates vying to replace him in 2014.
Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis signed an affidavit at the polls this week because the names on her driver's license and voter registration card slightly differ. Republican Greg Abbott will also need to sign an affidavit because of similar name variations, spokesman Matt Hirsch said.
Criticism over the effects of the voter identification law, particularly for women who have changed their names after getting married or divorced, intensified this month when a state judge told a Corpus Christi television station that the new law caused her problems for "the first time" in 52 years. Judge Sandra Watts told KIII-TV that she also had to sign an affidavit because of name variations in state records.
Those variations can include a middle name that's missing on voter rolls but is listed on a driver's license. With the affidavits, people are swearing that they are who they say they are. They do not have to do anything else for their vote to count.
The affidavit provision was included in the voter ID law under an amendment offered by Davis, even though she voted against the entire law. She and Abbott are now running for governor.
Davis had said she was trying to ensure that people weren't turned away at the polls. But Perry told reporters after voting at an Austin public library that as far as he knew, it "wasn't an issue until the Legislature" made it one.
"I think to understand how this has come to light is instructive," Perry said. "This has always been an issue out there. It's my understanding from the secretary of state's office that historically a worker, one of the volunteers, would take a look at it and they would deal with it and move on."
Davis spokesman Rebecca Acuna said Wednesday that things would have been worse under the law had it not been for Davis' amendment.
Davis' driver's license reads Wendy Russell Davis; on her voter registration, she is Wendy Davis. After voting Monday in her hometown of Fort Worth, Davis told reporters that signing the affidavit was a "simple procedure" but expressed concern for women who've had name changes, for reasons such as marriage or divorce.
"Sen. Davis foresaw a problem. Under her leadership, the amendment to safeguard Texas voters passed unanimously and was signed into law," Acuna said.
Abbott has yet to vote. Because the name on his driver's license is Gregory Wayne Abbott and the name on the voter rolls is Greg Abbott, Hirsch said Abbott will also need to attest to his identity.
Voters are weighing nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution, including one backed by Perry that would spend $2 billion for new water projects. Early voting runs through Friday, and Election Day is Nov. 5.
Perry said the elections so far appeared to be "going quite well" and said turnout in some of Texas' largest counties was up 400 percent from the last time. He did not name which counties, but Texas secretary of state's office spokeswoman Alicia Pierce also said turnout was high.
As of Tuesday, nearly 197,000 people had voted either in person or through the mail, which is about 2.3 percent of all registered voters in Texas.