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Texas

About A Million Texans Have Registered To Vote Online Since Court Ruling On Motor Voter Laws

A sign invites people to register to vote or to apply to vote by mail.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A sign at Juan Navarro Early College High School in North Austin invites people to register to vote or to apply to vote by mail on August 2020. The Texas Department of Public Safety has allowed about a million people to update their voter information online after a court ordered the state to do so.

After a lengthy court battle, the Texas Department of Safety has started allowing voters to update their voter information at the same time they update their driver’s license information online.

The Texas Civil Rights Project filed a federal lawsuit against the state on behalf of three voters in Texas who thought they had updated their addresses on their voter registration through the DPS website. They later found out that never happened because online voter registration is illegal in Texas.

The plaintiffs in the case were Jarrod Stringer, Nayeli Gomez and John Harms, as well as two organizations, MOVE Texas and the League of Women Voters of Texas.

The lawsuit claimed Texas was violating the National Voter Registration Act — which includes federal motor voter laws — and the U.S. Constitution. The Texas Civil Rights Project first sued the state five years ago, but the lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality. The group sued again shortly after.

A federal judge sided with the Texas Civil Rights Project and ordered the state to change its practices last year, forcing Texas to “create the first-ever opportunity for some Texans to register to vote online” starting in September, the group said in a press release.

Mimi Marziani, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told KUT that DPS data shows that about a million voter registration transactions have occurred in the past ten months.

“That means that’s an average of a 100,000 Texans per month are now registering to vote — or updating their voter registration — with their online drivers’ transaction,” she said. “That’s a lot of people.”

For years, DPS had been treating voters who wanted to change their information online differently than people who do so in person at a DPS office. Voting groups said that violated the voting rights of some Texans.

Stringer, the lead plaintiff in the case, said in a statement that this was part of “Texas’ history with voter suppression,” which has stood in the way of “thousands of Texans trying to exercise their rights as Americans” by voting.

“I was deprived of that right in 2014, and that is something I do not wish upon any American citizen,” he said. “I am thankful for the years of tireless fighting by advocates and lawyers who fought for the rights of millions of my fellow Texans and forced the state to follow the law.”

Marziani told KUT that this should prompt the state to expand online voter registration to all eligible Texans, not just those updating their drivers’ license information. Currently, 42 states and D.C. have online voter registration. Texas is among the small minority of states that doesn’t.

Marziani said Texas now has “absolutely no practical reason” not to expand and implement full online voter legislation.

“Now with the state implementing this online voter registration with driver’s license transactions, the state completely has the backend infrastructure to roll out online voter registration,” she said.

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