Eight million people in Texas don’t vote but are eligible, and the Houston region is ripe for finding and registering these voters.
This was the message coming out of a packed room of about 70 pro-voter organizations and individuals on Sunday at the Justice Center in Houston.
The nonpartisan event was hosted by Fairness in Democracy, a new local non-profit organization that focuses exclusively on voter registration in southeast Texas. The group is launching a tablet-based registration technology on April 21.
Sri Kulkarni, the foreign service officer who unsuccessfully ran for a Texas congressional seat last year, noted there are 950,000 eligible – but unregistered voters – in the Houston region. In Ft. Bend County, 97% of these potential voters, he said, are minorities.
Attendees discussed ways to increase Texas’ voter registration, including passing a law allowing for online registration. The state government’s current registration process is stuck in the 20th century. Prospective registrants must either go in person to a government office or fill out a physical paper form and snail mail it to the Secretary of State’s office.
While tablet-based, the Fairness in Democracy’s new technology allows for immediate printing of a “wet” signature of the registrant as required by law.
Bruce Elfant, the Travis County Voter Registrar, explained how the Austin region takes the award for the highest voter registration of any big Texas city. Working with the City of Austin, his team went to where the people were — at ACL, SXSW, July 4 celebration, and the city’s multiple parades — to register voters.
Voting rights advocates in attendance Sunday included State Rep. Gene Wu, League of Women Voters, Mi Familia Vota, NAACP, and Texas Organizing Project.