Federal Judge Rules Texas Must Allow Online Voter Registration with Driver’s License Renewal

Residents seeking driver's license renewals peer through the glass doors of a closed Drivers Service Bureau adjacent to the main offices of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Statewide all driver license locations have been closed for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. …
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

A federal judge ruled Friday that Texas violated federal law by not allowing residents to register to vote when they renewed their driver’s license online, despite state officials’ push to preserve the requirement of paper registrations.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia concluded the state’s restriction was “breaking the National Voter Registration Act, which mandates that states must allow residents to register to vote when applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses,” according to the Hill.

The report continued:

The state’s Department of Safety (DPS) follows the federal law when Texans go in-person to a driver’s license office. But, when residents go through the state’s online portal to register to vote, they are directed to a blank form that must be printed, filled out and then mailed to their county registrar.

“DPS encourages Texans to use its online services to renew their driver’s license and change their address because it is easier and more convenient,” wrote Garcia, who was nominated by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and confirmed by the Senate in 1994.

“It cannot, at the same time, deny simultaneous voter registration applications when those online services are used,” he stated.

Friday’s decision was not the first time Garcia ruled on the issue, the Hill article read:

In 2018, he ruled that Texas must implement what would’ve been its first online voter registration system. However, his ruling was struck down in late 2019 by a federal appeals court because the plaintiffs who had initially filed a complaint were able to reregister to vote, according to The Texas Tribune.

However, when one of the plaintiffs moved to Houston, he once again ran into the same problem and refiled a suit against the state in January.

In a statement prior to the lawsuit filing in January, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the 5th Circuit’s findings on standing, adding that “federal judges have no right to alter state voter registration processes on the whim of plaintiffs who are already registered to vote.”

He also said the ruling was a win for “election integrity” by requiring original, physical signatures on voter registration applications, according to the Texas Tribune.

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