Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

First post-legislative session voting rights lawsuit filed

Surely not the last.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, a Latino civil rights group and a voting rights group say a bill signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week that prevents Texans from using a commerical address or post office box as their address when they register to vote is unconstitutional.

The Texas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights group, and Voto Latino, a political mobilization group are asking the court to block the enforcement of Senate Bill 1111, which the groups say violates the First, 14th, and 26th Amendments.

The bill is set to go into effect on Sept. 1.

The law states that a person cannot “establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited” and they cannot “designate a previous residence as a home and fixed place of habitation unless the person inhabits the place at the time of designation and intends to remain.” This means that the address a voter gives while registering to vote must be the address at which they currently reside.

In addition to the address restrictions, the bill empowers voter registrars to send a confirmation notice letter to a registered voter requiring them to confirm their address. If a completed confirmation notice is not received within 30 days, that voter may become unregistered and be unable to vote.

To confirm the address of their current residence the voter must sign a sworn statement that their address is not a commercial location. They would also have to provide the same information required for one to register to vote, including some form of identification.

The plaintiffs characterize SB 1111 as one of many examples of voter suppression pushed by Republicans this past legislative session.

The groups allege the law “burdens voters who rely on post office boxes” and unfairly targets people who may not reside in a single location for long periods of time. The population of people who may not have a primary location and rely on P.O. boxes include people who are experiencing homelessness and students who may live on a college campus.

Texas State LULAC director, Rudy Rosales, said in an interview that the bill is “just another avenue for the state to interfere with people’s right to vote.”

Rosales points to the confirmation notices as a clear example of how this law will disenfranchise many Texas voters. Combining an important notice that may impact a person’s ability to vote with the amount of junk mail people sift through daily, he said, will lead to many missing their chance to confirm their address and render them ineligible to cast a ballot. Rosales also believes that the law serves to intimidate people from minority communities who are already wary of interacting with the government.

Here’s SB1111, which as Reform Austin notes is an outgrowth of an effort by local vote suppressor Alan Vara to target people who don’t have permanent addresses. This bill is also a reminder that for all of the very justified attention that SB7 got, there was plenty of other much lower-key activity in this legislative session to make it harder for people to vote. I hope that the Justice Department is keeping an eye on this as well, and offers whatever assistance it can.

Related Posts:

8 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Overall, this is much ado about nothing. The homeless aren’t voting in any significant amount, unless they’re getting paid to do so by nefarious political partisans. As I recall, the left is pretty good about getting the homeless registered using whatever homeless shelter address they’ve been to most recently, so I don’t see why the left is complaining about the homeless not voting. I suspect they vote, or votes are cast for them, in a higher percentage than the general population.

    Can’t register at a commercial address? That sounds like it might impact Dave Wilson, who famously registered his address to run for office at a commercial warehouse. Probably a good idea to codify that that isn’t allowed, and I know there’s no love lost for Dave Wilson around this site, LOL!

    As to the no P.O. Box registration, there is actually a very small bit of genuine concern there. Decades ago, a good friend of mine lived in a very small town. Very small. He lived so close to the Post Office, that they wouldn’t deliver mail to his house, and insisted that he instead have a P.O. Box, that my friend had to pay for. I always thought that was wrong. The ironic part….his next door neighbor was the postman. There would have to be some sort of exception made for folks in that very specific situation.

    College kids, however, get mail delivered to their dorms, so that’s a red herring. And college kids have always had a choice about whether they wanted to vote in their college town, or their home town. This law doesn’t change that, does it?

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    Bill, your friend couldn’t get general delivery at the local post office? If they are in a small town with no local delivery, I think that is the point of general delivery. Also, if you live in the town but have no permanent residence to receive mail at home. General delivery is at no cost.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    The story is true. He lived in the Academy-Little River area outside Temple. I don’t remember if it was Academy or Little River that he actually lived in, but I know they made him pay to rent the P.O. box. You’d think they would have at least comped the box, but no.

  4. voter_worker says:

    This article fails to clarify how SB1111 differs from the Election Code in its current form. It’s already illegal to register at anything other than your residence. This is not enforced. Does the new law include a means of enforcement? VRs already have the authority to send confirmation letters with the 30 day period. Failure to respond does not result in un-registation, it results in being reclassified as a suspense voter, with a 4 year period in which to update your address. The rationale behind using your residence address is that districts and jurisdictions are based on addressing. If you register where you work, you are likely to be voting a very different ballot than if you register where you reside. The concept is based on the fact that the US Census data is used as an important element to determine district boundaries. Maybe “they who post 50 paragraph comments” can explain why/how this law differs from the existing code.

  5. policywonqueria says:

    Voter_voter, as always your feedback is insightful, unique, and very much needed and appreciated as it enhances the discussion, even if it doesn’t answer the questions posed.

    At least the additional questions are being raised.

    Based on my reading of the Election Code and the SB 1111 text, it’s not clear to me how the homeless get to vote at all in strict compliance with the law come Sep. 1, 2021, if they “live” under an elevated interstate, for example, or on the banks of Buffalo Bayou, or in their car, truck, or an old van that’s not a commercial vehicle. If the common law definition of residence is eliminated, would therey be any flexibility left for courts in the event of litigation/prosecution? Could they claim a homeless shelter address as a residence for voter registration purposes even if they stayed there only once? And what if there is no new address to update a (non-commercial) driver’s licenses that’s not expired and is not otherwise invalid? What about the numerous people about to get evicted once the moratorium and COVID-funding expires?

    Here are a few paragraphs (way short of 50) of additional commentary:

    MODERN HOOVERVILLES AND ACCESS TO THE BALLOT

    As Ross Ramsey convincingly shows in today’s column in the Trib. by comparing public opinion findings on policy preferences with the output of the Lege in the recently-concluded regular session, electoral success is what matters. Essential to having electoral clout, and the ability to shape legislation, is the ability to exercise the right to vote.

    Although election outcomes are determinated collectivley by large numbers of ballots, the right to vote is individual to each citizens. Therefore, the notion that a law that makes it difficult to register and to then cast a ballot is somehow not a big deal because it doesn’t affect a large number of people is not a valid argument.

    Plus, in combination, an entire array of different types of new rules that interfere with voter registration and actual voting could very well make a difference in the outcome *synergistically* even if a single restrictive election-administration measure by itself is unlikely to do so, or would only very rarely flip the result in a competitive race.

    And as for the homeless as a relevant population group in particular, we have just witnessed multiple examples of policy initiatives targeting them specifically for prosecution on account of the deprived status. Both at the local level in Austin (ordnance & referendum) and at the state level in the Lege: in the form of laws criminalizing their efforts to mitigate the effects of their homelessness by sheltering in tents or ending up sleeping on benches or on the sidewalk. They are on the receiving end of policymaking, rather than being ignored as not being relevant because not very numerous, and not in a good way.

    REFERENCED PIECE: Ross Ramsey, Analysis: A majority of Texas voters isn’t enough to sway a Republican state government, TEXAS TRIBUNE (June 28, 2021)
    https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/28/texas-voters-government-priorities/

  6. voter_worker says:

    @Policywonqueria, thank you and I wasn’t being sarcastic…I just grabbed a number. Harris County has for years facilitated, under both D and R administration, homeless registration at shelters, churches, agencies and occasionally a camp location if the applicant also provides a mailing address I’m mainly worried about enforcement and penalty provisions not mentioned in this article. Currently, VRs are not granted authority to make a determination that an address is non-residential and rejecting an application on that basis. Will they now become enforcers by being directed to make such determinations? This could get real sticky, real fast.

  7. voter_worker says:

    I might add that in Harris County the potential number of existing registrations that would be disqualified isn’t trifling. Are they to be grandfathered and the new law applied only to activity after Sept. 1, or will existing registrations be affected? Yes, I have many questions and no answers.

  8. Manny says:

    Bill, you would be surprised how many people who vote in Republican primaries vote from their office. I will assume that those people are Republicans.

    Even more can be found living inside P.O. Boxes rented from the UPS stores, which they can label Apt#, or Suite #, etc.