Texas is one of a handful of states nationwide that currently does not offer online voter registration. That may soon change, thanks to a recent ruling by federal Judge Orlando Garcia.
The Lone Star State permits people to renew their driver’s license online but does not allow them to register to vote at the same time. On May 10, Garcia gave the state 45 days to develop an online voter registration plan.
In his ruling, Garcia said the state’s online registration system violates the motor-voter provision in the National Voter Registration Act. Users are sent from the Department of Public Safety’s page to a separate page operated by the Texas secretary of state, where they are required to download a voter registration form, print it out, fill it out and then mail it to their county registrar.
Currently, Texas residents are able to register to vote in person at Department of Public Safety offices statewide, but not when they renew their driver’s licenses online. More than 1.5 million Texans use the web for driver’s license transactions each year.
Texas Civil Rights Project lawyers have developed a seven-page list of solutions giving DPS 45 days to develop a system that would ask online users if they would like to register to vote or to update their address on voter rolls on every driver’s license transaction.
That information would be sent by DPS to the secretary of state’s office, which would then forward it to local voter registrar’s offices.
Supporters of online voter registration say it would ease workloads in county voter registration offices and would eliminate both labor and postage costs that come along with contacting voters who do not completely fill out the registration cards. And, since voters would be responsible for entering their information themselves, that would make it more accurate, advocates say.
However, state lawyers are now arguing that those fixes are unworkable and go beyond what federal law mandates. They also contend that 45 days is not enough time to update online procedures.
Full online voter registration in Texas would require approval by the state legislator. The bill would then require the signature of the governor. Thirty-seven states currently offer online voter registration. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have also approved automatic voter registration legislation.