Registering To Vote In Travis County Ahead Of The Presidential Election Can Now Start With A Text

Aug 13, 2020

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Travis County officials have launched a program aimed at making it easier for people to register to vote during the pandemic in a way that doesn’t violate Texas’ online voter registration ban.

Bruce Elfant, Travis County’s voter registrar, said in the past several months his office has been receiving fewer voter registration applications than he would expect during a presidential election year.

“Voter registration actually flatlined,” he said.

Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant, seen in his office last year, says he received no voter registration applications in April.
Credit Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Elfant said his office didn't receive a single application in April, which prompted him to think of ways to make it safer and easier for people to register in the county.

Through the new program, Text2Register, voters can text the word “register” to 48683 (IVOTE) and get a link to fill out a voter registration form online. The registrar’s office then mails voters the filled-out form, which they then only have to sign, date and put in the mail using a postage-paid envelope.

Elfant said this system will also help cut down on the number of errors and incomplete applications his office receives, which can become a big issue during major elections.

According to the registrar's data, on average about 5% of forms that are turned in are incomplete. In June, more than 10% of voter registration forms were incomplete.

“[This system] wouldn’t allow an incomplete application to be completed," Elfant said. "And that’s the beauty of this and online voter registration – that it will eliminate the incomplete applications that we receive.”

Travis County is the only county in Texas using this text voter registration program, according to Gretchen Nagy, the county's director of voter registration.

Registration would be much easier if the state had online voter registration much like 40 other states plus the District of Columbia, Elfant said.

“I am hoping, especially that after the experience of this pandemic, that the Legislature would reconsider allowing our citizens another safe way for them to register to vote without leaving their homes,” he said.

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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