Thousands of Texans are being disenfranchised thanks to chronic failures in the state’s voter registration system, a Democratic group alleges based on government records and extensive additional evidence. The charges raise serious questions about Texas’s commitment to making the ballot box accessible to new voters, and about its compliance with federal voting law. In a letter sent Wednesday to Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, lawyers for Battleground Texas, which works to register voters in the state, wrote that the state government’s “voter registration failures are widespread and systematically undermining the right to vote in Texas.”
A decades-old part of Texas’ election code is receiving new attention as Democrats look to chart a path forward and maintain their ranks of volunteers qualified to register voters. Perhaps no organization is expected to feel the effect more than Battleground Texas, whose thousands of deputy voter registrars will lose their certification Dec. 31, and will have to go through training before they can earn it back in the new year. “This is wildly burdensome,” said Mimi Marziani, voter protection director at Battleground Texas. “The only logical explanation is that all of those things are aimed at the same goal, which is making it much harder to vote.” Under state election law, deputy volunteer registrars serve two-year terms that expire at the end of even-numbered years. While the provision has been on the books since the 1980s, Democrats predict this year will bring its most far-reaching consequences yet because the number of deputy volunteer registrars has ballooned in just two years.
A state district judge has thrown out a complaint filed against the Democratic outreach group Battleground Texas that was based on a conservative filmmaker’s video, a special prosecutor said Monday. Special prosecutor John Economidy, a Republican, told The Associated Press that he and fellow special prosecutor Christine Del Prado, a Democrat, determined that Battleground Texas did not violate state election law by transcribing phone numbers submitted on voter registration forms. San Antonio Judge Raymond Angelini signed the dismissal without comment on Friday, Economidy added. The inquiry began after conservative activist James O’Keefe and his group, Project Veritas, made a video that purported to show Battleground Texas workers talking about transcribing telephone numbers from voter registration cards they’d collected. O’Keefe said in the video that taking phone numbers violated Texas law, and Republican leaders, including Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, called for a criminal investigation.
The Texas Secretary of State referred three complaints against Democratic group Battleground Texas for possible prosecution as violations of a state election law on Friday. Battleground Texas issued a statement, saying it has done nothing wrong and that the complaints and referrals were partisan attempts to slow the group. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office, which would normally investigate further, recused itself and forwarded the complaints in a letter to Susan Reed, the district attorney in Bexar County, where one of the violations allegedly took place. Abbott is running for governor against Democrat Wendy Davis, whom Battleground Texas is assisting by registering voters, building a supporter database and ultimately mobilizing those voters for the Nov. 4 general election.
While saying it had received no complaint against the Democratic group Battleground Texas, the office of Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry suggested Wednesday that the group’s voter registration practices might rise to a “potential level of offense” of state election law. Battleground Texas strongly disputes breaking any laws and said a flap over its registration efforts has Republicans running scared. At issue is a videotaped conversation with Battleground Texas volunteers in Bexar County. It was gathered surreptitiously by controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe, who has sent people posing as interested volunteers to infiltrate Democratic or liberal activist groups, after which he disseminates video that was secretly gathered.