Texas on Wednesday kicked off a voter education campaign ahead of the November elections amid heightened scrutiny of the state’s voter ID law. Under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and minority rights groups, the state is required to spend $2.5 million to educate voters about its voter ID requirements. Registered voters will be able to cast a ballot Nov. 8 without a photo ID under the agreement, which came weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that Texas’ 2011 voter identification law was discriminatory. The inaugural Vote Texas event on Wednesday, at which Secretary of State Carlos Cascos told students at the University of Texas at Austin to get into the habit of voting at a young age, was planned before the agreement, Cascos said.
“Our role is not necessarily to increase the vote, but I think that with voter education, the voter training that we’re assisting with and reaching out to first-time voters about the importance of registering, that’ll translate into a greater voter participation,” Cascos said in an interview.
In March’s presidential primaries, Texas saw a record number of voters. Despite this, the state’s turnout of voting-age residents — 21.5 percent — lagged behind that of many other states. Cascos said at a Texas Tribune/Society for News Design event on Friday that Texas should be “embarrassed” by the state’s low voter turnout.
On Wednesday morning, Cascos spoke to hundreds of students in an undergraduate American history course, including many who then registered to vote. He told students that if they didn’t have one of seven acceptable forms of identification, they could still vote.