Federal lawsuit filed against elections administrators

Voter group says they make it hard for people to vote

Cars wait in line to vote Tuesday for the second day of early voting in the municipal runoff election outside the polling location at the Brownsville Public Library - Main Branch on June 8, 2021. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

A federal lawsuit has been filed against Cameron County Elections Administrator Remi Garza and three other elections administrators in Texas alleging they are making it difficult for people to vote.

Vote.Org alleges Garza, Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen, Travis County Tax-Assessor Bruce Elefant and Dallas County Elections Administrator Michael Scarpello are making it difficult for people to register to vote because they require “wet signatures” instead of web version signatures filed electronically.

Texas in June of this year passed House Bill 3107 or what some call the “Wet Signature” bill which limits electronic signatures on voter registration forms; this is the law elections administrators must follow. The rule requires that while voters may submit online signatures they must also present documentation that contains their original signature or “wet signature” as well.

The lawsuit states the ability to complete applications electronically is critical to ensure voters with limited access to printers, mailing facilities, or who otherwise need assistance to register to vote, have meaningful opportunities to do so.

Commenting on the lawsuit Garza said, “I believe this is a very important issue and if this is the appropriate form to get it resolved we are looking forward to that resolution, and I am prepared to do whatever is required by the court.”

Vote.Org alleges the Wet Signature Rule provides unnecessary roadblocks that are not only out of step with provisions of Texas law but also creates undo burdens for voters and those who help register them.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Western District Court of Texas San Antonio Division. Vote.Org wants the court to declare that the Wet Signature Rule violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and enjoin the defendants from enforcing the Wet Signature Rule.

Vote.Org states voters who renew their licenses or change their addresses through the Texas Department of Public Safety can enter their signatures on electronic key pads. These signatures are electronically stored allowing the DPS to “piece together a voter registration application by combining the personal information populated on the renewal or change of address form with the voter’s signature from the electronic file.” The compiled information becomes the voter’s registration application and is approved if the applicant meets the eligibility requirements.

“DPS applicants do not review or complete their voter registration application, nor do they ever physically sign the application form…And DPS acknowledged in previous litigation that the information it transmits to the Secretary’s office includes only a ‘digital image’ of the applicants signature taken from DPS forms,” the lawsuit states.

“The Wet Signature Rules violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Civil Rights Act by selectively targeting and burdening private organizations’ efforts to increase voter turnout, and by imposing an arbitrary barrier to registration that has already denied many Texans the opportunity to vote for reasons entirely unrelated to their eligibility,” the lawsuit reads.

Vote.Org states it’s the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote technology platform in the country. In total, Vote.Org has registered more than 6.7 million new voters and verified more than 16 million voters’ registration statuses. Since 2012, it has helped over 776,000 Texas register to vote and 1.9 million Texans verify their registration statuses.

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