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State fails to respond to voter registration lawsuit

Here’s an update on a different voting rights lawsuit from last year.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Civil rights lawyers suing Texas over its voter registration practices are asking a federal judge to sanction the state for allegedly blowing past deadlines and ignoring a court order to hand over thousands of pages of documents related to the case.

The Texas Civil Rights Project last March sued on behalf of four Texans who allege the Department of Public Safety denied them the opportunity to cast a ballot — and violated federal law — by failing to update their voter registration records online.

The plaintiffs say they were hoping for quick action as the 2018 election cycle looms, but claim the state is dragging its feet.

State lawyers turned over less than 2 percent of the 55,000 pages by Jan. 17 — a court-ordered deadline set after Texas requested multiple extensions, according to a filing this week in a U.S. District Court in San Antonio.

“It’s hampering our ability to prepare for the case,” said Cassie Champion, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “The timing is so important.”

The filing asked Judge Orlando Garcia to hold Texas in contempt and order its lawyers to immediately produce the documents and pay any fees “resulting from their failure to comply” with his previous order. Champion said she wasn’t sure what such fees would total.

[…]

No one disputes that Department of Public Safety follows the law when Texans handle that business in person, but it’s a different story for folks who update their license information online, the lawsuit argues.

The DPS website eventually directs Texans who check “yes” to the statement “I want to register to vote” to the Secretary of State’s website. There, they can find a registration form that they must print out and send to their county registrar.

Though the website specifies that checking yes “does not register you to vote,” the process has spurred “widespread confusion” among Texans who erroneously thought the state had automatically updated their registrations, the lawsuit alleges.

Over a 20-month stretch ending in May 2015, the state fielded more than 1,800 complaints from Texans who erroneously thought their voter registration records were up-to-date after they dealt with their driver’s licenses online, according to court filings.

The lawsuit argues the Motor Voter law applies to all voters — regardless of how they deal with their driver’s licenses — and Texas violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by treating them differently.

See here and here for the background. I know, it’s hard to believe that Ken Paxton’s office would be uncooperative on something like this. Maybe this motion will shame them into action, and maybe it will require a slap on the wrist from the judge. Either way, I agree that it would be nice to get something accomplished before the 2018 cycle gets underway. KUT has more.

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5 Comments

  1. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Wonder if the courts will treat everyone that disregards an order the same way?

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I guess I don’t truly understand the issue. When you want to register to vote, you go to a county office and register. When someone needs a Texas driver’s license or Texas ID card, they have to appear in person for that, initially, so that’s not an issue. Is the issue that people who chose not to register at the time they initially appeared in person at the DMV are having trouble registering to vote online? If so, what is the remedy sought with the lawsuit?

    “The DPS website eventually directs Texans who check “yes” to the statement “I want to register to vote” to the Secretary of State’s website. There, they can find a registration form that they must print out and send to their county registrar.

    Though the website specifies that checking yes “does not register you to vote,” the process has spurred “widespread confusion” among Texans who erroneously thought the state had automatically updated their registrations, the lawsuit alleges.”

    What, exactly, do the plaintiffs want? Bigger font on the “does not register you to vote” language? Seems like that would be an easy fix. I truly don’t understand why this is a court battle in the first place. If language is confusing, a simple rewrite should fix the issue, yes? Otherwise, pick a font size that will be acceptable for “does not register you to vote” to be written in, in order to NOT be confusing and go with that.

  3. Ross says:

    The issue, Bill, is that if you go to the DPS office and change your address in person, your voter registration is automatically changed. If you change the address online, you have to do a separate step to get the voter registration changed. It ought to work the same way, regardless of how you change your license address.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross:

    That seems fairly reasonable. Of course, either way, we are talking about a few more or a few less mouse clicks….not really ZOMG! Voter suppression! It’s really not much different than following a link someone has posted here to read more about a subject.

    I wonder how much it would cost to program the DPS computer to automatically change a voter’s registered address? Probably less than the cost of defending a lawsuit. Does this mean we are OK with linking the DPS website to the Sec. of State website to download the original voter registration application, or is that too hard as well?

    Seriously, if the goal here is to simply get a voter’s address changed when the DL is changed, then I agree, why not do that? Filing a lawsuit over it, though, seems like making a mountain out of a molehill, and defending against such a lawsuit seems like chasing good money after bad.

  5. C. L. says:

    If you can’t figure out a website notification that clearly reads ‘Does Not Register You To Vote’ [regardless of font size], then directs you another website with a form you need to fill out and send in, you have no business voting in the first place.

    That being said, there was Court-ordered deadline that should have been adhered to. On would think an Attorney would understand the requirements of the case…