Texas invalidates 2,400 online voter registration forms ahead of midterms based on vague law
With the November elections right around the corner, the State of Texas has thrown up a roadblock for voters by invalidating around 2,400 online voter registration forms. According to the Houston Chronicle, Unless the voters re-submit updated applications, including new signatures, they will be barred from voting on November 6th.
Vote.org, a nonpartisan group which works around issues of voting, told the Chronicle that it helped to register 2,400 people from Dallas, Bexar, Cameron and Travis counties using digital photographs of their signatures. But Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State, says those signatures don’t comply with Texas law.
Taylor told the Houston Chronicle, “Our Elections Division instructed Vote.org to change their process immediately in order to comply with state law and avoid misleading Texas voters into submitting invalid registration forms.” Those voters whose forms are invalid have up to 10 days to resubmit their paperwork in the mail with the correct signatures, according to Taylor, while everyone else’s deadline is October 9th.
But Vote.org says Texas election law is not exactly clear on if a handwritten signature is required for a registration form to be considered valid. The law only states the registration is to be “submitted by personal delivery, by mail, or by telephonic facsimile machine,” and it has to be “in writing and signed by the applicant.” Raven Brooks, Vote.org’s chief operating officer expressed his frustration with the Secretary of State’s office to the Houston Chronicle, saying that the office “throws up roadblocks to that participation.”
Despite the fact that Texas is routinely criticized for voter suppression, and is one of only 12 states that does not allow online voting, this year 15.6 million Texas voters have already registered prior to the 2018 midterms, which is about 1.6 million more people than 2014.
Voting registrar for Travis County Bruce Elfant told Houston Public Radio that Texas state law allows for copies of voter registration forms to be submitted, and he will process them as valid. Elfant also said that unless there is a court ruling otherwise, he will continue to allow voters to submit online applications. In the event of a court ruling in the favor of the State of Texas, the forms could simply be corrected with a handwritten signature.
In the meantime, Brooks worries that the people who his group tried to help register either won’t see their mail in time or simply won’t follow through with the additional steps now being imposed by the State of Texas.