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Report: 'Lackadaisical' Texas Leadership Does Nothing to Encourage Voting

Roy Varney for KUT News
Jim Harrington (middle) argues against current voter registration procedures.

Texas' new voter ID  laws can be used to discourage minorities and women from voting. 

That's according to the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project. Today, it released a 63-page report criticizing the states' voter registration procedures, and a lack of voting registration opportunities.

Last June, the United States Supreme Court overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The act was originally intended to protect voters from discrimination in voting matters, but the Supreme Court ruled that the application of the act, covering large parts of the South, was outdated.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas instituted a voter identification law. The law requires registered voters to present a valid form of identification to vote. The Texas Civil Rights Project would like to see the voter ID law overturned, because they say it can be used to deter minority populations from voting. 

Texas Civil Rights Project director Jim Harrington lambasted the efforts of Texas legislators to improve voter turnout.

“The system in Texas is lackadaisical, at best,” Harrington says. “And then you wonder if there isn’t some sort of subtext here as to why it’s lackadaisical, and if the Secretary of State and the officials are basically discouraging or not encouraging people to vote.”

Harrington said Texas lawmakers are afraid of losing their grip on power, which causes them to implement voting restrictions that improve their chances of being re-elected.

Travis County tax assessor Bruce Elfant estimates upwards of 600,000 registered Texas voters do not have identification that meets the requirements of the voter ID law. 

Harrington also says public schoolsshould offer bi-annual opportunities for eligible students to register to vote. In a TCRP survey of 75 high schools,  29.5 percent of schools never offered students voter registration applications. According to the Texas Administrative Code, high schools are supposed to offer voter registration applications at the end of each semester.

The primary target of Harrington’s criticism was the Texas Secretary of State John Steen. Steen will be stepping down from his position in January to return to his private law practice. 

“He has the power to contact school districts. He can egg them on. He can light a fire so they do what they’re supposed to do,” Harrington says. “He doesn’t do it.”

Roy is a second year journalism professional track graduate student at the University of Texas.
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