Texas objects to proposed motor-voter fixes


Highlights

Civil rights group wants an online voter registration plan in place within 45 days.

State objects, saying a fix cannot be made before Dec. 1 and arguing that the proposed changes go too far.

After losing a legal fight over the way Texas handles online voter registration, state lawyers are arguing that fixes proposed by a civil rights group go too far and should be rejected.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio had given both sides until Thursday to submit plans that will let Texans easily register to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license on the Department of Public Safety website.

The current system violates the National Voter Registration Act’s motor-voter provision, Garcia ruled, because online users are directed to a separate page run by the Texas secretary of state, where they must download a voter registration form, print it out and mail it to their county registrar.

Lawyers with the Texas Civil Rights Project submitted a seven-page list of solutions that would give DPS 45 days to create a system that would ask online users if they want to register, or update their address on voter rolls, with every driver’s license transaction.

The organization’s plan, designed to make voter registration easier for the estimated 1.5 million Texans who handle driver’s license transactions online each year, would require DPS to send the information to the secretary of state’s office, which would forward it to county voter registrars.

Instead of submitting a correction plan, however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton delivered a list of objections to the civil rights group’s proposals, saying they are unworkable and go beyond what is required by federal law.

First, Paxton said, 45 days is not enough time to change online procedures. The state’s current online vendor cannot complete changes before its contract expires Sept. 1, and the new vendor would need 90 days to create a process, he said.

Second, many of the proposed fixes go beyond what is required by the motor-voter provision, including calls for a statewide public education campaign on the new online process that must be approved by lawyers with the Texas Civil Rights Project, he said.

Federal law “does not give federal courts — and certainly does not give any plaintiff’s counsel — carte blanche to order the state to do anything they think may be beneficial,” Paxton told the judge in a late Thursday filing.

Beth Stevens, voting rights director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, accused state lawyers of dragging their feet past the November election.

“Unfortunately, last night we saw that the state is not willing to come to the table in good faith. Their proposed solution would not even begin to be implemented until after this year’s general election, guaranteeing that thousands more will lose their opportunity to cast a ballot that counts,” Stevens said Friday. “This is unacceptable.”

Garcia announced in April that he will rule in favor of the civil rights group, which sued Texas on behalf of voters who were not given the chance to register online, without the need for a trial.

The judge, appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton, followed last week by issuing a 61-page opinion that said federal law requires DPS to give Texans the chance to register to vote — or to update voting records to reflect a change of address — when they renew, update or obtain a driver’s license.

Those who conduct business at a DPS office are offered one-stop voter registration services, but online users must take several additional steps — a practice that falls far short of the 1993 law’s motor-voter provision, enacted to increase voter participation by simplifying the registration process, Garcia said.

Paxton has not discussed his options, but if the judge orders specific changes to the Texas registration process, the civil rights group expects him to appeal.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Amid church protests, AISD considers limits to facility rentals
Amid church protests, AISD considers limits to facility rentals

The Austin school district is considering limiting the use of its Performing Arts Center by outside entities amid protests by LGBT activists who say the district is renting the facility to a church that opposes gay marriage. Georgetown-based Celebration Church has been holding services most Sundays since Aug. 26 at the performing arts facility in the...
AISD driver on trial for touching student, 6, says they only hugged
AISD driver on trial for touching student, 6, says they only hugged

Walnut Creek Elementary students were greeted with Life Savers candy when they boarded driver Leon Young’s bus in the 2014-15 school year — he rewarded well-behaved children with frequent handouts while declining to offer candy to the troublemakers. That practice came up during a police interview three years ago after a 6-year-old female...
San Marcos police searching for man who robbed Starbucks at gunpoint late Tuesday
San Marcos police searching for man who robbed Starbucks at gunpoint late Tuesday

San Marcos police say they are looking for a man who robbed a Starbucks at gunpoint late Tuesday night. Police said they responded at 11:10 p.m. to the armed robbery at the store at 690 Centerpoint Road. The business’s security system company told 911 it was viewing live video of the robbery as it was happening, but by the time officers...
HUD Secretary Ben Carson marks public housing milestone in Austin
HUD Secretary Ben Carson marks public housing milestone in Austin

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced Wednesday that his department has preserved 100,000 public housing units nationwide, thanks to a federal rental assistance program. Carson made the announcement during a stop in Austin for a ground-breaking ceremony for the latest public housing development, Pathways at Goodrich Place...
HUD Secretary Ben Carson marks public housing milestone in Austin
HUD Secretary Ben Carson marks public housing milestone in Austin

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced Wednesday that his department has preserved 100,000 public housing units throughout the country, thanks to a five-year-old rental assistance program. Carson made the announcement during a stop in Austin for a ground-breaking ceremony for the latest public housing development, Pathways...
More Stories