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Thursday, September 29, 2022

New Texas Voting Law That Removes US Citizens from the Rolls

Acacia Coronado, Paul Weber and Nicholas Riccardi | Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas. A comprehensive new Texas voting law that Republicans pushed through the Legislature last year amid dramatic protests is causing uproar again, even before some of the most controversial restrictions and changes go into effect ahead of the state’s first primary. .

Thousands of Texans, including some US citizens, received letters saying they were flagged as potential non-citizens who could be taken off the voter rolls. And this week, local election officials said hundreds of mail-in ballot applications were rejected because they did not include the required new information.

“It’s just a bad situation on multiple levels,” said James Slattery, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, one of several voting rights groups that have sued the state over the new law.

The Texas law was approved last year by Republicans who have joined their party counterparts in at least 18 states, including Florida, Georgia and Arizona, in passing new voting restrictions after the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The Republican Party’s national campaign to tighten voting laws was fueled in part by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he won the election, not President Joe Biden.

Democrats objected strongly, including by walking out and blocking the Legislature, warning that it could disenfranchise countless voters, especially blacks, Hispanics and Asians. Many of its provisions, such as the expanded powers of party observers, come into effect only after elections. But Democrats and civil rights groups say what has happened so far is alarming.

First, Texas sent letters to more than 11,000 voters warning them that their registration would be canceled if they did not prove to their local election committee that they were citizens. More than 2,000 registrations ended because voters didn’t show up, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. But some of those who received the warning letters were citizens.

Monty Tew, a 52-year-old Texas-born man, said he couldn’t understand why he received a letter asking him to verify his citizenship. He said he paid $30 to request a copy of his birth certificate, which he then sent to the county as proof of citizenship, and was soon notified that the issue had been resolved.

“I was lucky that it wasn’t such a big problem, it wasn’t such a burden,” said Tew from Round Rock, a city near Austin. “But I can imagine how that could be a much bigger spanking for someone, maybe if they don’t own the technology or if paying someone $30 for something that was a waste of your time, money and effort, maybe trouble.”

Then this week, election organizers in some of the largest Democratic-run districts in Texas began early warning of hundreds of mail-in ballot applications that they had to reject for failing to comply with strict new regulations.

The 76-page law includes a new requirement that voters must provide either their driver’s license number, the last four digits of their Social Security number on mail-in voting applications, or a state-issued ID number.

The counties then match those numbers against their records before mailing the actual ballot. Texas already had some of the strictest mail-in voting rules in the nation and was one of the few states that did not expand mail-in voting in 2020 during the pandemic.

As of Friday, Harris County officials said they had rejected more than 200 of the 1,200 voter applications in the Houston area. In Austin, county election officials estimated a rejection rate of about 50%.

“This is definitely a wake-up call,” said Isabelle Longoria, an election organizer in Harris County. “At the moment, having such a low number of applications and having a 20 percent rejection rate in the primaries? It really worries me.”

The Secretary of State’s office said Friday in a statement that counties should consult with him on how to properly reject mail-in ballots. Earlier it was reported that letters warning voters that they could lose their right to vote were sent as part of the implementation of a new voting law. The measure includes provisions to set out the procedure for settling a 2019 lawsuit over the last time Texas tried to weed out non-citizen voters and eventually threatened to revoke the registration of large numbers of U.S. citizens.

“Voters who fail to provide proof of citizenship to their county voter registrar within 30 days of receiving a verification notice will be revoked from registration with the option of reinstatement if the voter later presents proof of citizenship, including at the polling station,” Sam Taylor said. office representative.

Of the 2,327 voters whose registration was canceled as a result of this procedure, 278 were confirmed as non-citizens, Taylor said.

But civil rights groups say the state is not taking the right steps to ensure US citizens are not involved in the process. The state is supposed to flag only those people who identified themselves as non-citizens on their driver’s licenses after registering to vote. But that also applies to the likes of Harish Wyalla, 35, of Austin, who said he has voted in the district at least twice since becoming a US citizen in 2013.

“I didn’t have any problems because I know that I am a citizen with proper papers, but I was surprised because no one asked me in the past,” Vialla said, adding that it took about a month to retain his right to vote. “The government should already have all this evidence and documents in hand.”

Nina Perales, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Foundation, helped draft the agreement in the 2019 case. According to her, state officials clearly do not follow this and are preparing for a new trial.

Perales said Texas voters should prepare for a potentially difficult vote as the provisions of the law go into full effect during the March 1 primary.

“It would be good for Texans to know their rights when they go to the polls because I think there will be confusion and doubt for many voters,” Perales said.

Riccardi reported from Denver. Coronado is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues.

World Nation News Desk
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