This week, the law firm of Waters and Kraus LLP sent a demand letter to the Texas Secretary of State, informing him of his failure to meet the legal requirements of the National Voter Registration Act, and of his legal liabilities under that federal law. The law in question is Section 20504(a) of Title 52, Chapter 205, United States Code (text taken from uscode.house.gov):
(1) Each State motor vehicle driver’s license application (including any renewal application) submitted to the appropriate State motor vehicle authority under State law shall serve as an application for voter registration with respect to elections for Federal office unless the applicant fails to sign the voter registration application.
(2) An application for voter registration submitted under paragraph (1) shall be considered as updating any previous voter registration by the applicant.
Easy enough to understand, right? If you get a driver’s license, or renew a driver’s license, you get registered to vote, or you get your registration updated, assuming that you are legally eligible to vote.
Unfortunately, Texas has done an abysmally poor job of implementing that simple mandate, and the Texas Secretary of State has seemingly abdicated all responsibility for correcting fundamental programmatic errors and mistakes in the way that the law is implemented. More damning, public records show that the Secretary of State has been aware for years that the state’s implementation of the federal law is badly flawed, but has failed to correct the flaws.
In Texas, drivers’ license registration and renewal is handled by the Department of Public Safety. As in other states, people who want to legally drive a car, (or to continue legally driving a car), go to a government office, fill out paperwork, pay a fee, maybe have to pass a driver’s test or a simple eye exam, and get a license.
Of those people who get licensed to drive a car, a large number will be legally eligible to register to vote, or they will already be registered to vote. Whether those legally eligible voters actually get registered is dependent on a number of factors.