Appeals court delivers blow to online voter registration for drivers

by | Nov 14, 2019 | Policy, Voting

A federal appeals court has struck down the decision of a lower court that said the state must allow Texans to register to vote while updating their driver’s licenses online.

Texas Civil Rights Project, the nonprofit civil rights group that brought the suit to court, said they were disappointed by the technical decision. “The State of Texas has consciously adopted and defended a practice that disenfranchises tens of thousands of voters each year and burdens millions,” TCRP said.

In 2018, three Texas residents sued the state for violating national voter laws, arguing that they were unable to register to vote while renewing their driver’s license– a right guaranteed by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the Motor Voter Act.

The three Texans argued that because they couldn’t register to vote online while updating their license, Texas was in violation of the Motor Voter Act.  

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio agreed and gave Texas a 45-day implement a limited version of online voter registration.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the order of the lower court last year, and on Wednesday, finally voted to overturn the mandate altogether.

In the appeal’s court opinion, it argued that since the three Texas voters who started the suit managed to register to vote before the 2016 election, no one was harmed. “Because Plaintiffs became registered prior to bringing this lawsuit, the fact that Plaintiffs were registered impacts whether they have standing to sue, not whether their claims are moot,” the court stated.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at

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