One of Texas' biggest fights over voter registration got new life Monday afternoon, with national Democratic groups parachuting into the state to challenge its requirement that each voter registration form filed in the state be marked with an original signature.
In 2018, the Texas Secretary of State's Office rejected nearly 2,500 registration applications generated by would-be voters using vote.org. The California-based website allowed those hoping to register to fill out an online form and provide a photo of their signature. The nonprofit then mailed a completed form to the registrar in the home county of the person attempting to register.
The process would've provided a workaround to the Lone Star State's ban on online voter registration.
"We remind all eligible Texas voters that online voter registration is not available in the State of Texas. Any website that misleadingly claims to assist voters in registering to vote online by simply submitting a digital signature is not authorized to do so," then-Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos said in October 2018. "All Texas voters should be extremely cautious when handing over personal and sensitive information to any unknown third party. ... My office is committed to ensuring all Texans understand proper and legal procedures for registering to vote, and that all Texans who are eligible have the opportunity to submit valid registrations ahead of next week's October 9th deadline."
The new lawsuit, filed by the Texas Democratic Party, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, argues that Texas' original or "wet" signature requirement is unconstitutional, thanks to a previous federal court ruling that found no basis not to allow electronic signatures.
"The reality is Texas’ electronic signature ban does not protect the vote; it only makes it harder for people, particularly folks in rural communities, to register to vote and make their voices heard," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Cheri Bustos said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "This unconstitutional ban does not make an ounce of sense, and it is the kind of arbitrary voter suppression that we’re working to tear down right now before even more harm is done to our Democracy.”
In addition to the lawsuit filed Monday, national Democratic groups have also recently filed legal challenges to Texas' ban on mobile early voting sites that help college-aged voters and those who don't have easy access to transportation to cast ballots, as well as a Texas law that guarantees that Republican candidates will be listed first on the state's ballots.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.