The state’s Democratic party and two high-impact national groups are suing the Texas Secretary of State for rejecting electronic signatures on voters registration forms.
During the 2018 midterms, the state rejected thousands of voter registration forms because they did not have “wet” or original signatures.
“For years, Texas Republicans have used every trick possible to make it harder for Texans to vote and to steal elections away from the rising Texas electorate,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a news Monday release announcing the lawsuit.
The party, as well as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who have signed onto the lawsuit, plan to argue in court that the state’s rejection of electronic signatures is a violation of federal voter laws, goes against Texas policy, and goes against the precedent set by other federal court rulings that found no issue with using electronic signatures for legally-binding matters.
“This is obviously a major problem in rural communities because there are some people without access to mail, so they require electronic signatures in order to vote,” Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for Texas Democrats told the Signal.
Rahman said that while the number of ballots being rejected is relatively small, as Texas and other states across the country move to digitize various aspects of civic engagement, like voting or voter registration, ending the rejection of those electronic signatures will become increasingly important.
So far, Texas is one of only 13 states that does not allow online voter registration. The 2,400 voter registration forms that were rejected in 2018 were by Texans who used Vote.org to try and register to vote online (sort of). Until their applications were rejected, the online tool allowed Texans to register to vote by faxing a copy of their application to Texas election officials with their electronic signature.
“It’s our number one priority,” Rahman said of incidents of voter suppression like this around the state. “When more Texans vote it’s better for democracy.”
Since taking control of the Texas government at the start of the last decade, Republicans have passed a number of voter suppression laws, including the state’s infamous voter ID law, and most recently in this past Texas Legislative session, cutting back on mobile early voting. Last year, then-Secretary of State David Whitley attempted to purge almost 100,000 voters of color from the rolls. Whitley had to apologize and was effectively removed from his job.
Last year, House Democrats introduced the For the People Act, a sweeping democracy-related bill that aims to get money out of politics and would require the nationwide online voter registration. The bill, like hundreds of others, remains blocked by Senate Republicans.
In case you missed it: Congress is trying to save Texas from its own worst impulses on voter suppression
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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 firstname.lastname@example.org