SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Three voters and two nonprofits brought a federal complaint Tuesday that says the failure by Texas to register voters through its online driver’s license application is illegal.
The lawsuit comes eight days after a cadre of Democrats sued the Texas secretary of state on voter-suppression claims; thousands of Texans were improperly barred from voting in the 2018 midterm elections because they had registered through a third-party online portal, the Democrats say.
MOVE Texas and the League of Women Voters of Texas say the National Voter Registration Act’s “motor voter” provisions obligate Texas to allow drivers to register to vote each time they obtain, renew or update their licenses through the state’s Department of Public Safety website.
Though the department sends visitors to the secretary of state’s online voter-registration application, where users can re-enter the same information into new forms, the plaintiffs say that because this is not simultaneous registration, it does not satisfy the federal law’s requirement.
“Defendant’s current practices treat similarly situated driver’s license applicants differently based solely on how those applicants choose to transact with DPS,” lead attorney Mimi Marziani with the Texas Civil Rights Project said in the 23-page complaint. “The NVRA makes no distinction between transaction methods and cannot be used to justify such arbitrary discrimination, which offends basic notions of equal protection under law.”
Because nearly 1.5 million Texans use the online driver’s license system, but none of them are simultaneously enrolled for voter registration, the consequences are said to be far-reaching.
“Would-be voters who show up to vote in their new precinct or county but whose registration has not been updated due to defendants’ failure to treat their online driver’s license transaction as a registration application will either be completely disenfranchised or forced to cast a limited ballot,” the complaint states.
The three individual plaintiffs say they were confused by the online registration process and mistakenly led to believe that when they updated their address on their driver’s licenses, their voter registration had been simultaneously updated.
They ask the court to approve a plan with reporting and monitoring requirements that would direct the Texas secretary of state and Department of Public Safety to electronically transfer voter registration information collected by the DPS driver’s license applications to the secretary of state’s office.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is assisted by attorneys with Water & Kraus of Dallas.
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