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State accused of misleading on voter ID education outreach

I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The federal government is accusing Texas of circulating “inaccurate or misleading information” to poll workers and would-be voters about relaxed identification requirements for the November elections.

“Limited funds are being spent on inaccurate materials,” the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a legal filing Tuesday.

The filing asked U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to “issue corrections to past press releases and other public statements” by Texas officials and “update and redistribute all electronic resources to reflect that all voters” without one of seven types of photo identification required by a 2011 Texas law may cast a ballot in November.

I told you we shouldn’t take the state’s word for it on anything related to this litigation. Let me quote from the filing to make clear what this is about:

On August 10, 2016, this Court entered an Order directing the State of Texas, Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, and other officials to implement a set of directives for the November 8, 2016 election. Veasey v. Perry, No. 2:13-cv-193, Order Regarding Agreed Interim Plan for Elections (“Remedial Order”) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 10, 2016) (ECF No. 895). The Court ordered:

“Commencing with any elections held after the entry of this Order and until further order of the Court, Defendants shall continue to educate voters in subsequent elections concerning both voter identification requirements and the opportunity for voters who do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain it to cast a regular ballot.”

Remedial Order ¶ 11 (second emphasis added).

Despite the Remedial Order’s clarity, Texas’s voter education and poll worker training documents depart from it. Rather than educating voters and poll officials about opportunities to cast a regular ballot for those who “do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain it,” the State has recast that language to limit the opportunity to cast a regular ballot solely to those voters who present SB 14 ID or who “have not obtained” and “cannot obtain” SB 14 ID. That standard is incorrect and far harsher than the Court-ordered standard it would displace. By recasting the Court’s language, Texas has narrowed dramatically the scope of voters protected by the Court’s Order. Moreover, the standard the State’s training and educational materials currently describe has already been rejected by this Court and the Fifth Circuit. At this critical stage, such materials should maximize accuracy and minimize confusion. Texas’s materials do neither.

Plaintiffs have objected to the State’s language repeatedly to attempt to resolve the matter short of court involvement, but Texas has refused to conform all voter education and poll worker training materials to the standard ordered by this Court that voters who “do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain” SB 14 ID may cast a regular ballot. The State is about to begin a mass media campaign that should educate voters to whom this Court has restored the ability to cast a regular ballot, and an erroneous message would compound—rather than cure—the harm caused by SB 14. The United States therefore respectfully moves to enforce the Remedial Order.

Seems pretty clear to me, and it jibes with the tingly feeling I get in my Spidey-sense when I read the things that people like Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart have been saying about voter ID and the changes to the law that are in effect this November. The state needs to be made to do the right thing because it will not do it on its own. The AG will file its response tomorrow, so we’ll see what they have to say for themselves. The motion is set for hearing on Monday, so we ought to know quickly what will happen. ThinkProgress has more.

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  1. voter_worker says:

    Here is a link to the SOS’ instructions to election officials and the document entitled “Reasonable Impediment Declaration” that the voter who has not been able to obtain ID will need to complete and sign before voting a regular ballot.

  2. brad m says:

    The Texas SOS is so full of it.