State elections officials are warning people who think they registered to vote through the online service Vote.org that their registrations may not be valid. But Travis County election officials now say the registrations are valid, and that they will process them as they would any other application.
Texas does not have online voter registration. But if Travis County's reading of the law holds up, it could be a loophole that allows for de facto online registration.
Earlier this month, Vote.org started offering a tool that allowed someone to enter a name, address and other necessary information, which then populated a voter registration application. Users would then sign a piece of paper, take a photo of it and upload it to the site, which attached the signature photo to the application. Vote.org then faxed the form and mailed it to the county voter registrar.
The Texas Secretary of State — the state’s top election official — now says registrations sent through the service are not valid.
“That’s not allowed in Texas,” Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, said. “You can’t affix a picture of a signature to an application. That opens up a wide range of possible fraud and abuse.”
But in an interview today, Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant, the county's voter registrar, said his office's legal counsel advised him that state law allows for copies of voter registration forms to be submitted — and that he will process these registrations as valid.
He says he's received only a few hundred registrations through Vote.org.
Elfant said that if the applications were to be found invalid by a court, they could be completed with an original signature after the fact.
The Vote.org service was available only in certain counties — including Travis County. The group has discontinued the mechanism to fax and automatically mail voting applications in Texas. The service now requires you to print and sign the application by hand and mail it yourself.
As for folks who have already used the service, the Secretary of State is advising county registrars to send a notice to those potential voters that their registrations are incomplete and they must submit an application with an original signature within 10 days of getting the notice.
Taylor says that even if the 10th day is after the Oct. 9 voter registration deadline, those applications will still be considered valid.
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