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Judge’s Ruling That Texas Violated 'Motor Voter' Law Could Lead To Online Registration

Voter registration form found on the Secretary of State's website.
David Martin Davies
Voter registration form found on the Secretary of State's website.

A federal judge ordered Texas to allow three citizens to register to vote after they renewed their driver’s licenses online. This could open the door allowing more than 1 million new voter registrations in Texas.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 is also known as Motor Voter. It requires states to offer voter registration opportunities when an eligible person applies for a driver license. On Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge Orland Garcia found that Texas has been violating that law.

“It should be as seamless as checking a box next to the question, ‘Do you want to register to vote?’” Garcia said.

Currently when renewing a driver’s license online in Texas – there is a link provided when citizens can print out a voter registration form, fill it out, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it.

Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, says each of those steps is a barrier to a potential voter.

“How many people have a computer with a printer at home? How many young people actually have a stamp?” Chimene asked. “It does prevent people from registering to vote.”

Beth Stephens – voting rights legal director at the Texas Civil Rights Project – said the court ordered that three individuals who were plaintiffs in the case be registered to vote. That order could soon be broadened to cover all of Texas before the Monday deadline for voter registration for the March primaries.

“The reason that this is important is that it does something that the state has never done before. It is requiring them to use this information that was provided online to register these individuals to vote,” said Stephens.  

Right now, 38 states have online voter registration. Texas is not one of them. But if this ruling is allowed to stand Texas will be taking a big step towards online voter registration.

David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi