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Elections Office Sends Out Notice Of ‘Similar Name’ Problems

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – What’s in a name? If you’re registered to vote in Texas, there may be a problem in the details.

Some North Texans were surprised when they received letters outlining problems with their names.

The Dallas County Elections Department compared its voter registration records to state driver’s license records and found some 195,000 people, that’s 17-percent of registered voters, had a discrepancy in the way their names are listed.

Those voters are now getting a letter in the mail asking them to fix the issue or face an extra hurdle at the polls.

Peggy Sham’s voter identification card shows her first and last name. Her driver’s license does too, but it also has her maiden name.

“For me, its not terribly significant, but the Dallas County Elections Department thought it was significant enough to send me that letter,” Sham said.

During a Skype interview with CBS 11 News Sham said she is one of almost 200,000 Dallas County residents who received a letter warning that difference in their name could slow them down on Election Day.

CBS 11 reporter Andrea Lucia said she was “totally surprised” when she received a letter. The elections department said there was a problem because her middle name, Lucia, doesn’t show up on her voter ID.

While the letters detail how the problem can be corrected online there is a wealth of information, including DPS audit numbers, which has to be entered. All this to correct differences that in many cases is as simple as spelling out a middle name instead of using an initial.

The situation for some Dallas residents is a bit more unique. “I wanna vote ’cause it’s my first time. I became a citizen last year,” explained Irving Rojas.

As a brand new U.S. citizen Rojas headed straight to the elections department to get his name sorted out. Instead of showing his middle name on his driver’s license it just has the initial ‘U.’

Having to deal with so many corrections, CBS 11 asked elections administrator Toni Pippens-Poole if she was concerned about there being widespread delays and issues in the upcoming election. She admitted, “There could be problems.”

Pippens-Poole said the department spent $80,000 mailing the letters and that the decision was made to do so in hopes of preventing confusion at the polls.

According to the new Texas voter ID law, voters with minor differences in their names will still get to vote – they’ll just have to sign an affidavit. That extra step could drag out the process and result in longer waits at the polls. “While you’re reading it, it takes time.  While you’re signing it, it’s going to take time.”

Pippens-Poole says the expenditure of money and possible tie-ups at the polls are all needless. “It’s frustrating because I don’t think there was any voter fraud in Texas to necessitate this.”

This same name requirement was in effect during the November election. Records show that of the approximately 70,000 people who voted about 1 in 5 had to sign an affidavit.

With the governor’s seat up for grabs more people are expected to turn out for this year’s election.

The elections department is hoping the letters sent out help people correct any issues before going to the polls.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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