Texas’ Motor Vehicles Department Misfires on Voter Registration

Apparently not content with throwing up needless roadblocks to casting a ballot on Election Day, the Lone Star State has been disenfranchising even those who follow all the rules. So says Battleground Texas in a letter sent yesterday to Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos.

According to the letter, during the 2012 and 2014 elections, thousands of Texans arrived at the polls having registered to vote at the Department of Public Safety (Texas’ motor vehicles department), only to be told that they were not on the voter rolls. And since Texas doesn’t allow voters to register on Election Day, it was too late for most of these voters to correct the problem.

Many of these voters checked a box on their driver’s license application forms (or the online equivalent) indicating that they wanted to register. Under the federal Motor Voter law (more formally known as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993), that and a signature are all a voter has to provide to register at DPS. By failing to add these voters to the rolls, Texas is in serious violation of federal law. 

When voters submit changes of address to DPS, instead of updating their voter registrations to reflect the new address, as Motor Voter requires, Texas simply drops them from the rolls at the old address, leaving them unregistered anywhere.

Although Battleground Texas is a Democratic-affiliated organization, Texas’ failure to follow Motor Voter is not a partisan issue. Voters from all across the political spectrum have driver’s licenses, and Texas must put them on the voter rolls when they register or update their address at DPS. Like California, which Demos and other organizations have threatened to sue for Motor Voter problems, Texas has one of the lowest voter registration rates in the country, and it is particularly low among the state’s Latino citizens.

DPS should be working hard to increase registration rather than frustrating voters who have done everything they are supposed to do to register. We hope Secretary Casco will look seriously at the problems identified in Battleground Texas’ letter and ensure that DPS fulfills its Motor Voter obligations.