Civil rights group threatens Texas with lawsuit over violation of voter laws

by | Dec 19, 2019 | Policy, Voting

The Texas Civil Rights Project has sent a cease and desist letter to Texas officials, warning them to stop violating federal voter laws or else face litigation. 

Under federal law, U.S. residents updating or obtaining their driver’s license should simultaneously be allowed to register to vote with a driver’s license application. 

“Texas is still systemically failing to register Texas voters when they submit a driver’s license renewal or change-of-address application during online driver’s license transactions,” read the letter.

More than 1.5 million Texans who renew their application online are robbed of this crucial right every year, according to to the TCRP. 

“Once again, the state’s resistance to comply with federal voting rights law has denied Texans their sacred right to vote,” said Mimi Marziani, President of the Texas Civil Rights Project, in a statement. “Since 2015, a long line of Texas Secretaries of State has known about their failure to comply with the law, and refused to take action to address it. Instead, they wasted millions of dollars in legal costs to shirk their duty under the law— and block eligible Texas voters from the ballot box.”

In 2018, three Texas residents sued the state for violating these 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.

A U.S. district court judge in San Antonio agreed with them in 2018 but that decision was overturned by an appeals court last month. 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.

But nothing has changed policy-wise, and more Texans could well be harmed by the state’s failure to follow the Motor Voter Act, opening up the possibility for Texans to have the standing to sue– which is exactly what the Texas Civil Rights Project is threatening to do if the Texas Secretary of State does not act promptly.

Photo: Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + 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 fernando@texassignal.com

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