Plaintiffs Ask Court to Penalize State Officials in Stalled Motor Voter Lawsuit

Jan 24, 2017

The Texas Civil Rights Project is asking a judge to penalize the state for not handing over documents in an ongoing federal lawsuit over the state’s motor voter program.

The Texas Civil Rights Project has accused state officials of violating the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment.

Last March, TCRP sued state officials, alleging state agencies are violating the National Voter Registration Act and the 14th Amendment by treating people who change their driver’s license information online differently than people who change it in person.

According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, Texans who showed up to change their driver’s license and voter information at a Department of Public Safety (DPS) office had their voter registration processed. If they did the same thing online, however, it wasn't processed because online voter registration is illegal in Texas.  

A lot of voters may be unaware of this because the DPS asks people changing their address online if they want to register to vote, per motor voter laws.

Mimi Marziani, TCRP's Executive Director, says this policy affects “tens of thousands of Texans” every election cycle.

Cut to 10 months later, though, and the case has barely moved.

In a motion filed in court Monday, the plaintiffs said that is because the state has yet to produce any documents for the case and has missed a Jan. 13, 2017, deadline set by the court.

“Defendants have repeatedly and without justification ignored the Court’s Order and refused to provide discovery in this case,” according to the motion. (You can read the motion below).

Lawyers are asking the U.S. District Court in San Antonio to hold the state in contempt of court.

“In addition to the fact that the state has known for months and months and months that we are seeking these documents, the other key point is that we are talking about the fundamental right to vote and to equal protection under the law,” Marziani said.

Several Democratic state lawmakers filed bills this legislative session aimed at changing this state policy.

KUT reached out to the Texas Secretary of State's office for comment. We will update this post if it responds.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the DMV administered driver's licenses and the motor voter program. However, the Department of Public Safety handles both.

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