Details of how Texas spent a big chunk of $2.5 million of taxpayer money for a voter ID education campaign during last November’s election will remain secret. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Office has ruled that the Texas secretary of state’s office can withhold records from the public showing where the state bought television and radio ads to promote court-ordered changes to a controversial voter ID law. The ruling also allows for the names of an estimated 1,800 community groups that partnered with the state on the education campaign to remain hidden from public view. A voter ID lawsuit has been winding through the courts since 2013, and the U.S. Supreme Court could decide as soon as this week whether it will hear an appeal from Texas. The law was weakened for the November election by a federal judge, who also ordered the state to conduct a robust education effort, after it was found to discriminate against minorities.
For months, however, the Texas secretary of state’s office has declined to provide details of ad buys and market placement for the outreach campaign and which organizations the state distributed education materials to spread the word at a local level.
In August, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos sealed records detailing proposed media markets and community groups for the voter ID education campaign. At the time, Texas argued in a court filing the materials contained “proprietary” and “confidential” information provided by public relations giant Burson-Marsteller, which designed the state’s voter education campaign.
Since then, the secretary of state’s office has used the court’s seal to deflect questions about where and how public money was used on ad buys and community engagement.