Texans can register to vote online for the first time

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For the first time ever, Texans can register to vote online, albeit in a limited form. The state now allows people to add their names to the voter rolls while updating their driver’s license online.

While online voter registration is not yet universal in Texas, it is still a step in the right direction for a state notorious for making it difficult for people to vote. 

The move came as the result of a six-year legal battle. In 2014, former English professor Jarrod Stringer updated his driver’s license online and the website asked if he wanted to vote. He clicked ‘yes’ and thought he was registered, only to find out he wasn’t when he tried to vote. By that point, he had missed the registration deadline. Stringer sued and in August a federal judge ruled in his favor. On Wednesday, just two weeks before the registration deadline, the state updated its online system to comply with the ruling. 

The National Voter Registration Act requires that states allow residents to register to vote when applying for or renewing their driver’s license, and Texas was found to be in violation of this order. 

Texas is one of only nine states that does not allow for full online voter registration. This has made it particularly difficult for Texans to register to vote in the midst of the pandemic. 

Moving to full online voter registration would require action from the state legislature. Rep. Celia Israel has authored an online voter registration bill in the past three legislative sessions and each time it has failed. With Democrats only nine seats away from flipping the Texas House, perhaps the fourth try will succeed.

Photo: BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

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