State Watch

Federal judge orders Texas officials to comply with National Voter Registration Act

A federal judge in San Antonio on Thursday ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to register three voters based on their online driver’s license address.

Lawyers for Jarrod Stringer, the lead plaintiff in the suit, argued that Texas was violating the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to allow eligible voters to complete voter registration when they obtain or renew their driver’s license.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia, a Clinton appointee, requires the state to allow the voters to register by Monday, Feb. 3, the deadline to register to vote in the March 3 state primary.

Thursday’s ruling, however, is only applicable to the three plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. The judge is expected to issue a long-term solution at a later date.

The ruling is one of several legal battles over Texas’s voter registration laws, which began in 2016 when Stringer filed a lawsuit after not being able to vote when he moved to a different city in Texas.

In 2018, the same federal judge ordered the state to allow motorists who apply for a driver’s license online to be able to register to vote simultaneously. The state, which has opposed online voter registration, contested the mandate, which was later blocked by a circuit court.

Mimi Marziani, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, the organization that represented Stringer, called the overturned ruling “a catch-22” where individuals could not hold their government accountable for depriving them of their right to vote.

Voting rights advocates have also accused the state of using deceptive messaging on its online driver’s license form, which could lead people to believe they’ve registered to vote online when they have not. 

“Our voting rights are under attack,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, in a press statement. “Texas Republicans have tried to game the system and erect barriers for eligible voters. From failing to register Texas voters online to aiding Republicans’ illegal voter purge, Texas DPS has been central to Republicans schemes to make voting harder.”

The Hill has reached out to the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Secretary of State’s office for comment.


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