Judge’s opinion rejects every argument made by the state and holds that the “motor voter” law applies to online driver license transactions.
DALLAS — Chief Judge Orlando Garcia of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas has denied the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Texas’ voter registration practices. The plaintiffs, disenfranchised Texans who attempted to update their voter registration records when updating their driver licenses online, are represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) and their co-counsel at Waters & Kraus, LLP, Peter Kraus, Charles Siegel, Caitlyn Silhan, and Rachel Gross. The opinion was handed down April 3, 2017.
Since the beginning, TCRP and Waters & Kraus have argued that failures in the state’s “motor voter” registration process have removed countless eligible voters from the Texas voter rolls. Yesterday, Judge Garcia acknowledged the systemic nature of the state’s actions, noting that the plaintiffs had “produced evidence that thousands of Texans submitted complaints to the state that related in some way to DPS’s processing of voter registration information through its website.”
In the order, the Court rejected each and every argument raised by the state in defense of its practices, finding that because the “motor voter” provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) apply to online driver license submissions, the state’s refusal to update voter registration information based on these submissions violates federal law. The Court also held that the state’s alleged interest in avoiding the expense in creating a modern system cannot justify “the burden imposed on voters” under the Equal Protection Clause. As a result, this ruling means that the state should be registering and updating voter registrations for eligible Texans who renew or update their driver license information online as a matter of course unless they opt out.
“The state has been failing its obligation to register voters as required by law. As a result, thousands of Texans are being denied their right to vote,” said Peter Kraus, co-founding partner at Waters & Kraus. “This ruling is a win for disenfranchised Texas voters.”
“With this decision, we are hopeful that we can resolve the case before the 2018 election so that every eligible voter can cast a ballot that counts, said Mimi Marziani, Executive Director of the TCRP.
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