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Texas County Accused of Misleading Voters

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — A nonprofit seeks a restraining order stopping election officials in a Texas county from falsely telling its 1.8 million residents they can only vote with a government-issued photo ID.

Bexar County, the fourth most populous county in Texas, runs 43 polling sites where early voting started on Oct. 24.

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project sued Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen and other county officials on Friday in Bexar County Court.

The nonpartisan organization conducts voter-registration and voter-education campaigns focused on getting out the Latino vote.

Under an interim federal court order issued in August, Texans can present a certified birth certificate, bank statement or paycheck to poll workers and sign an affidavit stating they "cannot reasonably obtain" one of seven acceptable forms of photo ID.

Southwest says its attorney called Callanen on Oct. 24 and told her the county was incorrectly advising voters about the state's rules via posters and other printed materials at polling sites, a county website and a voting hotline.

Callanen held a press conference the next day, saying her staff had visited every poll site that morning and replaced the signs that displayed the wrong rules, according to the complaint

But the get-out-the-vote group says it checked eight San Antonio polling sites on Oct. 27 and 28, where more than 26,000 early votes have been cast, and found signs in English and Spanish stating that voters must have photo ID that didn't explain the other voting options.

"The restrictive and incorrect voter ID materials posted by Bexar County officials fail to advise voters that if they lack government-issued photo identification there are alternative, non-photo documents that they can use to prove their identity and be allowed to vote," the group's lawsuit states.

A document displayed near the voter check-in desks at the Collins Garden Library poll site in San Antonio, titled "Acceptable Forms of Identification for Voting in Texas" and dated Sept. 16, 2013, lists only seven acceptable forms of photo ID, the group says.

"A poll worker at Collins Garden Library insisted that this document was correct when notified by counsel for plaintiff that the document was out-of-date and incomplete," the complaint states.

Poll workers at other sites are also misleading voters, according to the lawsuit.

On Oct. 25 at San Antonio's Memorial Library, a poll worker walked by a line of waiting voters and "announced that everyone should 'have their ID ready,'" Southwest claims.

The voter-education group wants a restraining order and permanent injunction ordering Bexar County officials to replace all the incorrect signs at voting sites and change Bexar County elections department's telephone message.

It also wants the webpage advising voters on rules "to say 'ID' instead of 'photo ID,'" and for officials to tell poll workers "they cannot display materials that contain the illegal requirements.

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project is represented by Nina Perales with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in San Antonio.

Callenen was not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday morning.

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