The Texas Civil Rights Project has released a 63-page human rights report on defective and inadequate voter registration procedures at the state and local level, which result in thousands of Texans not having the opportunity to register to vote, as the law requires, or not having their registration applications properly recorded, effectively disenfranchising them. The report, nearly a year in the making, zeroed in on the following:
1. Lackadaisical leadership by the Texas Secretary of State John Steen and his Elections Division Director Keith Ingram, including:
a. No effective register-to-vote campaigns, including in the state’s 10 various language communities;
b. No effective follow up with high school administrators to assure their compliance with the law in registering of-age students to vote (see Finding No. 2, below);
c. No effective follow up with state agencies to assure their compliance with the law to register voters when they apply for services (see Finding No. 4, below);
d. Lack of leadership in helping create standard, uniform Voluntary Voter Registrar processes among the counties (see Findings Nos. 3 and 5, below).
2. Failure of high schools to comply with the law in registering of-age students as voters, as they are required to do by law.
3. Lack of cross-county voter registrars such that a Voluntary Voter Registrars have to be certified in each county they register voters (and subject to widely different qualifications in each county), even where a city would overlap into different counties.
4. Lack of agency registration of voters, when they apply for services, as required by law. Seven agencies and governmental entities are mandated by statute to register voters, and the Secretary is empowered to require others to do the same.
5. Extraordinary slow recording of voter registrations by local county registrars and the Secretary of State (some of which is due to lack of electronic transfer of registrations).
6. Lack of uniform receipt for voters when they register so that they can use them when voting in case their registration has not been recorded.
7. Failure of the Texas Education Agency to encourage and promote voter registration and education for of-age students.
8. Lack of effective statutory remedies in the Election Code for noncompliance with legal requirements.
The report listed 16 recommendations that would help facilitate registration of voters and greatly expand the state’s voter database.
The human rights report is the latest in a series of two dozen reports issued over the years, addressing a wide spectrum of civil rights in Texas (such as Title IX compliance and discrimination by educational institutions, prison conditions (overheating and medical care), hate crimes, lack of diversity in appellate courts’ hiring a law clerks, and so on).
TCRP Director Jim Harrington called the voter registration situation in Texas “utterly deplorable. The only reasonable conclusion to draw, along with Texas’ other disenfranchisement schemes (such as voter ID), is that those in government simply do not want a healthy and vibrant democracy with as many citizens participating as possible. See the archive of TCRP Human Rights Reports here.
“This is a rather dramatic reversal of the efforts after passage of the Voting Rights Act to register and encourage everyone to vote. What appears to be going on is quiet effort to suppress voting, not as brutal or heavy-handed as in years past, but just as effective. It’s a shameful commentary on Texas’ political leaders these days. One wonders if, in reality, they fear a healthy and active electorate.”