ROSE NOLEN: Sorting out voting issues now helps everyone get access

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — It seems to me that I have walked down this path before. It was in the 1960s. At the time, I was a trainer, working for the church. We were doing a workshop on women’s theology. I was living in Kansas City, and a group of women from the South were attending the class.

It took them a few classes before they started to unwind. I began to learn things about them. That’s why, when I started to hear on television recently that some women in Texas would have difficulty voting because they had changed their last names, I understood what they were talking about. It’s about voting rights. The women’s names are mixed up. Sometimes they are using their maiden names for their middle names and sometimes not. Unfortunately, their names are sometimes different on written forms. Sometimes the name is Nancy Ann Jones, and sometimes the name is Nancy Smith Jones.  Whether a woman can vote depends on how her name is listed on the voting rolls, according to the state's voter ID law.

It can take a long time to get the names straightened out, and a lot of people might not get to vote. For years in Kansas City, the women were listed as Mrs. John Smith when they married. I don’t know how long it took them to get that custom straightened out. As far as African-Americans were concerned, we generally kept our own names. And for the most part, we usually kept our middle names and our maiden names separate.

I certainly hope this all gets straightened out and doesn't cause a lot of women to be unable to vote. A lot of trouble is caused as well by men who list the women’s names. Some men are not particularly careful about listing these names correctly.

Women who use their maiden name for their middle name can also have a hard time in getting the names corrected. Frankly, I have always been very protective of my name. I know many women who are called by names other than their own, and I’ve always wondered how they did not get confused.

(African-Americans also are fond of nicknames. One of my brothers was always called by a nickname as a child and it grew up with him. Actually, many people were always surprised to find out what his actual name was.)

Now that the Republicans are getting anxious to enlist as many people into their party as they can, I would imagine that many states are going to get cranky about keeping the voters' names listed correctly. While Texas claims to be on guard against voter fraud, apparently they’ve had very few cases to contend with.

I’m glad that Missouri officials don’t seem to feel the need to be constantly changing our voting rules. It’s really hard enough to keep people going to the polls and keeping up with what’s going on.

I hope the women get their names corrected and make it to the polls. Time is of the essence.  

Rose Nolen writes a weekly column for the Missourian. You can join the conversation by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at

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