Elections 2020JudicialLocal NewsFederal Judge Orders Texas to Allow Online Voter Registration

A federal judge has ruled that the Department of Public Safety must let Texans register online when they renew their driver's licenses.
August 31, 2020
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Orlando Garcia, Chief U.S. District Judge of Texas’ Western District, has ruled that the state must create a way for Texans to register to vote while renewing their driver’s license online to comply with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as the “motor voter law,” 52 US code § 20501.

The state argued in 2018 that the same rule in U.S. code not only allows states the power to control change-of-address forms but also requires a physical signature.

Garcia’s recent ruling comes as the last word in a long legal battle involving plaintiff Jarrod Stringer, among others, who sued Texas’ Secretary of State’s office and Department of Public Safety after he and his wife were unable to update their voter registrations online.

Last year, after the same federal court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the state went to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals where Chief Judge Priscilla R. Owen ruled in their favor, writing “that Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act in 1993 — well before the age of the Internet, the advent of online transactions and electronic signatures, and the bevy  of security questions that cyber-activities inevitably present.”

In the second and most recent suit, while the state claimed that Stringer lost the standing to sue since he was ultimately allowed to register, the court ruled that Texas’ prohibition on online voter registration is unlawful nonetheless.

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“Defendants’ argument also overlooks the true nature of the Plaintiffs’ cause of action,” Garcia wrote in his ruling. “Plaintiffs are claiming that the State’s process is itself unlawful and violates their federal right to simultaneous application for voter registration and… driver’s license.”

Advocacy groups MOVE Texas and the League of Women Voters joined Stringer and two other citizens as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, with the Texas Democratic Party as intervenor-plaintiff.

Alongside other top Republicans, state Attorney General Ken Paxton has called for keeping the requirement of a real signature in order to register to vote or to change voter registration information.

“As enacted by Congress, the NVRA recognizes that requiring a voter to sign a voter registration application is an important means of upholding election integrity,” Paxton stated in a November press release.

 

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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.