Texas’ court-ordered $2.5 million voter education campaign failed to prevent widespread confusion about the state’s identification rules ahead of the 2016 general election, according to a study released Monday. And such a misunderstanding may have kept some eligible voters in key political battlegrounds from showing up to the polls, the University of Houston study found. A federal judge last year ordered the Texas Secretary of State’s office to spend $2.5 million educating Texans about its voter ID requirements ahead of the 2016 elections. The requirements were relaxed after a federal appeals court last year ruled that Texas’ strict 2011 ID law discriminated against minority voters. The education efforts — a mix of television and radio advertisements and online media — fell short, the research suggested.
“What was clear was, Texas voters did not have a good understanding of what the photo ID rules were in 2016,” said one of the study’s authors, Mark P. Jones of the University of Houston and Rice University. “The Texas Secretary of State’s office could have done a much better job, although, of course, they need the resources to do it.”
Sam Taylor, a spokesman for Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, declined to comment on the study, citing pending legal battles over the state’s voter ID law. (Pablos was sworn in two months after the November elections).
Researchers surveyed hundreds of registered voters who chose not to cast ballots in two “purple” regions, those with hotly contested races between Republicans and Democrats: sprawling Harris County and Congressional District 23, where Rep. Will Hurd represents an area that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and takes in most of the Texas-Mexico border.