Tuesday, August 14, 2012

U.S. District Court Continues Hold On Five Deputy Voter Registrar Restrictions

Today, U.S. Southern District Court Judge Gregg Costa denied the state of Texas' request to stay an injunction issued earlier this month. That injunction prevents Texas from enforcing several of its restrictive deputy voter registrar laws.

On Thursday Aug. 2, U.S. Southern District Court Judge Gregg Costa issued an injunction to suspended five provisions of Texas law that place restrictions on groups and individuals who work to register new voters. These provisions place restrictions on groups like the League of Women Voters, making it significantly more difficult for them to register voters. The provisions are suspended until a trial in the Voting for America v. Hope Andrade case on whether the entire law violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act can be held. The Houston Chronicle has more:

Under Judge Gregg Costa injunction, Texas may not require that deputy voter registrars live in Texas, a law Voting for America said prevented it from organizing voter registration drives.

It also may not prevent deputy registrars from registering voters who live outside their county; prevent organizations from firing or promoting employees based on the number of voters registered; prevent organizations from making photocopies of completed voter registration forms for their records; or prevent deputy registrars from mailing completed applications.

On Friday Aug. 3, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a motion to stay Judge Costa's order to suspended those provisions, arguing an injunction would lead to confusion and possibly disenfranchise more voters if third party volunteers improperly handled registration.

Costa wrote in his opinion that "no other state of which this Court is aware has gone as far as Texas in creating a regulatory web that controls so many aspects of third-party voter registration activity." Costa said that voter-registration fraud remains illegal without the new laws: "Defendants have not demonstrated that the challenged provisions are needed to buttress the direct tool of preventing fraud by prosecuting those who actually engage in fraud."

The Voting for America v. Hope Andrade suit was filed in February. The plaintiffs in the case are: Project Vote, a nonprofit voter registration group; its affiliate, Voting for America; and Galveston County residents Brad Richey and Penelope McFadden. The deputy registrar provisions Judge Costa suspended with the temporary injunction are:

  1. No one can work in voter registration drives who doesn’t live in Texas;
  2. No one can work outside any one particular county;
  3. Payment to registration drive workers must be an hourly wage and compensation cannot be based on the worker’s productivity;
  4. No completed voter registration forms can be photocopied by the registration drive workers or the registration drive organization; and
  5. All completed voter registrations must be delivered to county elections officials in person by the deputy registrar.
It may take a while for the Office of the Secretary of State to update the Texas Volunteer Deputy Registrar Guide on it's website.

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