Three Texans are going to see the future before everyone else. Late Thursday afternoon, a federal judge in San Antonio issued a preliminary injunction requiring Texas to allow the online voter registration of three plaintiffs in an ongoing suit against the state. The court is expected to make a ruling covering the whole state at a later date.
The issues in the case are fairly simple. Texas does not allow online voter registration. It does allow online driver's license renewal. Federal law requires that states allow voter registration wherever they allow driver's license renewal. That's why there's a lawsuit.
Thursday's ruling requires that the three voter-plaintiffs in the case be registered before next week's registration deadline for Texas' March primary.
"(The defendants) have offered no viable defense to the statutory violations in question or their continued refusal to comply with the (National Voter Registration Act)," U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia wrote.
Democratic and voting rights groups across the state celebrated Garcia's initial decision.
“Our voting rights are under attack. Texas Republicans have tried to game the system and erect barriers for eligible voters," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said after the ruling. "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."
According to the Texas Civil Rights Project, Texas would become the 40th state to offer some form of voter registration if the injunction is applied statewide.
“The right to vote is sacred, and expanding access to voter registration was too important for us to not keep fighting,” said H. Drew Galloway, executive director of the MOVE Texas Civic Fund, a nonprofit that encourages youth political participation. “Online registration has been possible for 18 years. No voter alive today should have to go through the cumbersome and arbitrary processes associated with the paper voter registrations that keeps many from exercising their rights.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued throughout the case that Texas is in compliance with federal law.
“Congress, in the text of the NVRA, recognized that requiring a voter to sign a registration application is an important means of upholding election integrity,” Paxton said in February. “Texas’ duly elected policymakers agreed, and federal judges have no right to alter that decision because they disagree with it. Not only that, but the district court’s injunction also imposed an array of intrusive requirements — all at the request of plaintiffs who already have registered to vote. I’m hopeful that the 5th Circuit will reverse this decision, which is flawed from top to bottom.”
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