Texas' Voter Registration System Is "In Disarray" and Needs to Be Overhauled, Report Says

TexasVoterRegistrationCard.png
The debate about voting in Texas over the past several years has focused on the controversial voter ID law that passed in 2011 and finally took effect over the summer. It was a necessary step to prevent voter fraud, supporters said, while opponents countered that it erected illegal hurdles to voting, particularly for poor and minority populations.

The folks at the Texas Civil Rights Project are seeking to broaden the conversation, which has become unproductive, asking not just why Texas seems bent on disenfranchising a significant put relatively small percentage of the population through the ID law but why it doesn't do a better job of encouraging voter registration across the board.

Registering to vote, it should be said, isn't all that hard. Just check a box when you renew your driver's license or else print a form and mail it to the county clerk. But the process can be confusing (those who renew their licenses online, for example, can check the voter registration box, but this this won't actually register them to vote) and ensuring that registration happens tends to be incumbent on the voter.

See also: Congressman Marc Veasey Is Suing the State of Texas to Stop Enforcement of Its Voter ID Law

TCRP argues that the state has a responsibility to more actively promote voter registration -- not just a vague moral responsibility but a well-defined legal one.

One of the big problem spots, the group says, is public schools. Under Texas law, high schools are required to distribute voter registration cards to students at least twice per year. Some districts -- somewhere between one- and two-fifths, according to TCRP's figures -- comply with that rule, but most do not.

There are also multiple state agencies, like the Department of Aging and Disability Services and the Department of State Health Services, that are supposed to promote voter registration to their clients but do not.

TCRP cites other problems, too, like recent cases in Harris County of would-be registrants who were improperly kept off the voter rolls because they didn't include a driver's license or Social Security number or else weren't added because their application sat in the county clerk's office. The system for training and appointing deputy voter registrars varies widely from county to county, with some voting officials in rural areas unaware of the practice. When the state does do outreach, materials are mostly printed in English and Spanish and not in Chinese, Urdu or other languages potential voters might speak.

All of this ties into Texas' well-documented history of voter exclusion, TCRP argues, referencing KKK intimidation, poll taxes, all-white primaries and race-based gerrymandering, among other sins.

The nonprofit has a host of suggestion for encouraging voter participation. All state agencies charged with voter registration should adopt the Texas Department of Public Safety's system, which automatically adds an applicant's name to their county voter rolls. The TEA should make sure schools are actually handing out voter registration cards. Outreach materials need to be printed in other common languages.

The biggest piece, however, is that the state needs the authority to punish entities that stray from their requirements under the state's election laws. Without that, there will be little incentive to follow the rules.

Judging by TCRP's assessment of Keith Ingram, elections director for the Texas Secretary of State, there might not be a lot of political will.

"While aware of the challenges Texas faces in ensuring that each eligible citizen is registered to vote because of gaps in policy and virtually zero enforcement mechanisms, Mr. Ingram coolly shifted the responsibility of advocating for policy reform onto citizens," the report says. "He explained that it is up to us as voters to sway our Legislature regarding such issues as policy reform."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

Texas Voting Rights Report

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42 comments
everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

We aren't better off when people who are too stupid to fill out a voter registration form vote.


If you are too dumb to figure out how to vote, you shouldn't be voting.

ruddski
ruddski

Remember, we can screen and absorb tens of millions of new citizens and extended families virtually overnight, but we can't get a photo ID to a few hundred citizens in Texas in any amount of time.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

Every year, the Republicans send a renewed voter registration certificate to a churchy little felon who used to live at my address before she went to prison.

Last week, it came again.


whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Molly Gochman - the artist, Renato Ramirez - the banker is on the board of directors?

Catbird
Catbird

Agreed. There should be voter reform: if you don't have a verifiable income or don't own taxable property you shouldn't be allowed the vote. Cheers!

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

Short term thinking will be regretted.

The pols seem to think (they don't believe in science, so it's understandable) that they'll be able to stay in charge forever. Demographic change is unavoidable, unless these new republican vaginal probes are also vacuuming out all the eggs.

The brown skinned people will attain numbers even in the gerrymandered districts to elect people that look like them, and the white boys will find out what it's like to have no voice.

I don't think they're gonna like it. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

SCOTUS has already sustained identical Voter ID laws in other states.  

What is at issue is the citizen's confidence in the vote itself.  How can my vote count if it is diluted by voters who do not understand the language spoken by the person running for office?  Common sense tells the voting public those who do not understand the candidates are subject to manipulation by advocacy groups.  Which begs the question, should the IRS deny non-profit status to the Texas Civil Rights Project?  Of course not.  Why that would clearly be overt and intentional disenfranchisement by the state.  Texas may be guilty by inaction however, actively attacking citizens who organize to vote is far worse.

ruddski
ruddski

Fine those who fail to register.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I'm calling fraud all ready...the one I got in the mail today was ernge not yellow.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

I'm pretty liberal as a general rule, but I fail to see the issue here. I don't think I've done anything with my voter registration card but use it as a coaster since about 2002. I registered when I was 18 and outside of the first couple elections realized it was a hell of a lot easier to just take my ID to the polls and initial next to my name. Maybe other places are different, but I've never had an issue with it. If you're a voting adult I'm pretty sure you can afford an ID card or driver's license. They're not expensive, just a pain in the ass because of DPS lines.

dingo
dingo

The folks at the Texas Civil Rights Project are seeking to broaden the conversation by characterizing disenfranchisement efforts that took place in 1845 as relevant to today's landscape.


Can we get a 'narrower' version that is a bit more on point?

JohnSmallBerries
JohnSmallBerries

@everlastingphelps Of course none of those is a requirement for voting, and that is simply your opinion to justify a prejudice. How about I say, "When people are stupid enough not to understand that your estimation of someone else's intelligence has nothing to do with their voting eligibility, then that person shouldn't be voting?" 

ruddski
ruddski

Given your history on the internet, why in the world would we believe this? You are a proved and known liar who makes bizarre and legally actionable claims on the internet as a matter of course.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Montemalone 


You assume that it's in "brown skinned" genes to vote Democrat?  What is that?

The next majority will bear the burden of not only paying back the $17.2 Trillion racked up by the Boomer generation (which includes all parties - it was a team effort), but will also labor for the proletariat to fund the $95 Trillion to support those who sit in idleness (including the fastest demographic to crawl into the public wagon - the boomers).  The Boomers' income-producing years are rapidly coming to and end.

Why do you believe "they" will happily labor hours a day and not demand to keep the direct benefit of that labor?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but ANY politician or political party that does not put fiscal accountability to the fore in order to blunt the coming reckoning . . . is toast.

And if you continue to hang your hat on the capitalist system then you cannot ignore self-interest as the primary engine.

One day we will ALL be TEA Partiers.

This how people will vote because we have no other choice.

Liberalism is a dead man walking.



ruddski
ruddski

No lie, and if you know any community-activist Latinos, they are looking forward to the revenge for the horrible things Texans have done to them.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@holmantx
The mistake you make is in thinking that there's no way for politicians to understand Spanish, or for Mexicans to understand English.

It's a remarkably foolish assumption - especially in Texas.

Heck, even George Bush can speak Spanish - and he's retarded.

Guesty
Guesty

@holmantx So we should require tests on the issues, or do you think uninformed English speakers should get to voice their idiocy simply by virtue of their good fortune to the exclusion well informed foreign language speakers (you do know there is a vibrant Spanish language news media in Texas, right)?  And ultimately, if the issue is informed voters, we should be excluding almost everyone because very few voters in Texas know anything more than the party affiliation of the candidates when casting their ballots. 

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@ruddski  I would be OK if we just didn't let people vote if they are too dumb to register .

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@P1Gunter

The problem isn't that it's impossible to get an ID card.

t's also possible for every adult to take a class in basket weaving.

The problem is that it's not necessary.

Either one would be an unnecessary bureaucratic requirement  - unless you're trying to reduce voter turnout.



Guesty
Guesty

@dingo You're only off by a century, which I guess means you fail holomantx's test and should be prohibited from casting ballots.  

ruddski
ruddski

Obama did not carry Texas, there's the proof of disenfranchisementarianism.

ruddski
ruddski

voter registration cards are sent out by government, not a political party. So, once again, our resident bullshitter fails to impress.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ruddski
That's quite a tantrum.

Way to keep the Tea Party spirit alive!

ruddski
ruddski

"Liberalism is a dead man walking."

Seen Obama's latest poll numbers? He may be the one who killed it. I knew the doofus was good for something.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bvckvs @holmantx 


Then there is no need to print the ballot, Voter card, TDL or SSN app in another language!  See now here I thought that was the topic we are riveted upon.


Then after all my rant, you come up with the simple answer to the question.  People can easily learn English.  Viola!


I would have never thought of that.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Guesty @holmantx  


Vibrant?  Is Fox News "vibrant" (ha!).


Well, you started out pretty good but you ended up with this - "And ultimately, if the issue is informed voters, we should be excluding almost everyone because very few voters in Texas know anything more than the party affiliation of the candidates when casting their ballots."

Now seriously.  Does that not refute or negate your first assertion?  Assuming you were merely being sarcastic to prove a point.  Because if you really DO believe the last sentence, how can you decry the disenfranchisement of issue-oriented non-English speakers in the first sentence?

So you would have no problem if all the candidates in the state spoke exclusively in some other language throughout the campaign process so long as you had your ID card and ballot printed in English?  And how would you fully participate on this blog if you demanded to speak in another language (even if the DO allowed it)?

You are a walking conundrum.  A catch 22.



ruddski
ruddski

They get the short ballot.

ruddski
ruddski

Neither is failure to purchase health insurance, but...

Thanks for playing, Brutus.

ruddski
ruddski

Bvcks, Are you having a stroke?

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

@bvckvs @P1Gunter The only necessary requirement for bvc is that they vote Democrat.  Otherwise, there's got to be some sort of fraud involved.

ruddski
ruddski

My lawyer suggested that I taunt you.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Guesty 

The fact is you missed the point.

The issue is whether the citizen can understand what the candidate is saying, not what a news agency says he's saying..

And if the issue was merely whether the voter was informed or not, your bullshit artists and vote-buying schemes would be in BIG trouble.

And the TEA Partiers would be the only ones allowed to vote.

Guesty
Guesty

@holmantx Logic fail. 


Fact:  Most voters (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian or Other, Democrat, Republic, Libertarian, or Green Party) are ignorant of the candidates and issues.  Not only do I believe it's true, but there are lots of studies backing me up on this.


Fact:  Some voters who are not native English speakers are relatively well informed voters.  The simple fact that the news is reported in Spanish means that there exists native Spanish speakers who are better informed than native English speakers who get all their information from WorldNetDaily or DemocraticUnderground.


These facts are not mutually exclusive.   

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ruddski 


I think you may fit a profile in Arizona by the Justice Department for thinking like that.

ruddski
ruddski

Legally, immigrants have to have a working knowledge of English.

Except of course for the largest legal and illegal immigrant demographic.

ruddski
ruddski

No paranoia, sanders. If you have no medical insurance by April, you will be fined, though there is no crime.

So simply apply the same to voter registration, problem solved.

Any more probs, Binky?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@ruddski This isn't about your paranoid delusions about healthcare reform.

It's about voter Registration.


What is it with Tea Baggers that makes it so hard for you freaks to focus on the topic at hand?!

ruddski
ruddski

I don't think you'll find many democrats Eager to have bvcks backing them.

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