Federal Judge Orders Changes To Texas Online Voter Registration

Steven Pickering
May 22, 2018 - 5:31 am
Court, Judge

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - A federal judge in Texas has ordered the state to begin allowing people who renew or update their driver's license on-line to also update their voter registration information at the same time. The judge set a 45-day deadline for the state to have that new system in place.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the Texas Civil Rights Project.

"We heard of voters complaining that they had gone to the DPS web site and updated their driver's license and thought they had updated their voter registration address", said Beth Stevens, Voting Rights Director for the Texas Civil Rights Project.  "Then when they got to the polls during the next election, they were unable to cast a vote that counted - because their voter registration had not been updated when they transacted with DPS on-line."

The Department of Public Safety website does have an option for people renewing their driver's license on-line to print out a form from the Texas Secretary of State's web site, which they can then mail to the voter registration office in their county. The Texas Civil Rights Project argued that did not go far enough to meet the terms of the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the "Motor Voter Law", which was passed in 1993.

"The state has been ordered to change its system to allow for voter registration and voter registration updates when people transact with DPS on-line for their driver's license," said Stevens. That order from Judge Orlando Garcia sets a deadline of July 2nd. Stevens estimates the new procedures could benefit up to 1.5 million people each year. "Many of those people have already been under the impression that their voter registration updated when they provided those updates to DPS, and now that will be a reality," she said.

Stevens says the Texas Attorney General's Office has appealed the judge's decision. A spokesman for the Texas Attorney General's Office had previously said that the state's voter registration is consistent with federal voter laws. The appeal will go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.