The Texas Secretary of State is fighting to uphold Texas’s new voter photo identification law against federal scrutiny. The press has reported extensively on the battle brewing between the states and the United States Department of Justice over the impact that voter ID laws will have on voter turnout. Many groups believe that voter ID laws—which require persons to show photo ID before casting their votes—unfairly target minority voters, making it more difficult for them to participate in the democratic process. While the photo ID requirement is the most widely reported change to the Texas election process, it is not the only new roadblock likely to affect voter turnout in the Lone Star State’s upcoming elections. Earlier this year, the Texas legislature bolstered the requirements for persons wishing to serve as deputy voter registrars by passing House Bill 2194 and House Bill 1570.
In Texas, the voter registrar in each county may appoint one or more deputy registrars. Deputy registrars are volunteers who assist in the registration of voters. They distribute applications, help people fill out applications, and generally promote voter registration.
Before the changes, a county registrar could appoint any person eighteen or older to serve as a volunteer deputy registrar. Following the passage of HB 2194, the age requirements remain, but now deputies must also meet the requirements to be a qualified voter (although they need not actually be registered voters), including the citizenship requirements. In other words, deputies must be U.S. citizens. Under HB 1570, deputies must also complete a formal training developed by the Texas secretary of state before they may assist in the registration of voters.