Bellmead resident Ruby Barber was born in Guys, Tenn., to sharecroppers who never signed a birth certificate, and now the 92-year-old is struggling to prove her citizenship so she can vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election.
“I’m sure (my birth) was never reported because I was born in a farmhouse with a coal oil lamp,” Barber said. “Didn’t have a doctor, just a neighbor woman come in and deliver me.”
Barber visited the Texas Department of Public Safety office last week to request an election identification certificate, but was refused one because she doesn’t have a birth certificate.
The state’s voter identification law, enacted in June 2013, requires all voters to show one of six forms of valid photo ID in order for their ballot to be counted.
The U.S. Department of Justice has joined other parties in a federal lawsuit asking the court to overturn the voter ID law, saying the law would affect minority voters disproportionately.
Voters who don’t have a valid ID, such as a driver’s license or Texas concealed handgun license, may apply for an election identification certificate — or EIC — to vote.
Those applying for an EIC must show a birth certificate or naturalization papers to prove their citizenship. Even the Texas identification card, which qualifies as valid photo ID to vote, requires her to provide a birth certificate and marriage license because her name changed when she married.
Barber has outlived all of her documents.
Barber’s marriage license burned in a house fire in 1992 and she let her driver’s license expire four years ago.
When applying for her election certificate, Barber took her Medicare card, Social Security card and expired driver’s license to the DPS office. But officials wouldn’t issue her an election card without the birth certificate.
Barber could purchase a birth certificate online through the Tennessee Health Department’s website for $15 plus a processing fee, but said she doesn’t have anyone to help her.
“I don’t understand why all of the sudden you have to have a birth certificate,” Barber said.
McLennan County elections administrator Kathy Van Wolfe said no one will be denied a vote, but if they don’t have a photo ID, they will be required to return within six days of voting with a valid ID or the ballot isn’t counted.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said a situation like Barber’s does not happen often, but the department has been in contact with Barber and is working to resolve her unusual circumstances.
The DPS has issued 263 EICs since June 2013.
Barber wants the election certificate in order to vote for the next governor of Texas and for the next president.
“I want to see a Democrat win,” she said. “My daddy was a Democrat to the end of his life . . . and he said, ‘Don’t none of you kids ever vote for a Republican.’ And I never have.”
Barber said she voted for the first time in 1944, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for his fourth term, beating Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey.
Barber said she hasn’t missed a presidential election since.
Her eyes filled with tears when she talked about voting in the upcoming election.
“I’ve voted all my life, and not to be able to vote — it just breaks my heart,” Barber said.