New Texas Voting Law Is Dismissing US Citizens from the Roll

Acacia Coronado, by Paul Weber and Nicolas Riccardi | The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A sweeping new Texas voting law, which Republicans introduced through the legislature last year over dramatic protests, is under fire again, even as some of the most controversial sanctions and the state’s first- Change in kick before in-the-primary.

Thousands of Texans – including some US citizens – have received letters marked as potential non-citizens who could be removed from the voting rolls. And this week, local election officials said hundreds of mail-in ballot applications were being rejected for not including the required new information.

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

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the Texas law was approved last year by Republicans, who joined their party colleagues in at least 18 states, including Florida, Georgia and Arizona, to impose new voting restrictions since the 2020 election. in doing. The national GOP campaign to tighten voting laws is partly driven by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he won the election, not President Joe Biden.

Democrats have strongly objected – including walking out and besieging the Legislature, warning it could deprive untold numbers of voters, especially black, Latino and Asian people. Many of its provisions, such as extended powers to partisan vote watchers, do not take effect until an election. But Democrats and civil rights groups say what has happened so far is worrying.

First, Texas sent letters to more than 11,000 voters warning that their registration would be revoked unless they could prove to their local elections office that they were citizens. According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, more than 2,000 registrations ended after voters did not turn up. But there were few civilians who received the warning letter.

Monty Tew, 52, who was born in Texas, said he could not understand why he received letters to prove his citizenship. He said he paid $30 to request a copy of his birth certificate, after which he sent a photo to the county as proof of citizenship and was soon reported to have resolved the issue.

“I feel lucky for it wasn’t such a big deal, it wasn’t that cumbersome,” said Tew of Round Rock, a city outside Austin. “But I can imagine how it could be a huge whip to someone else if they don’t have their hands on the technology or if paying someone $30 is a waste of your time, money, and effort.” Could be trouble.”

Then this week, in some of Texas’ largest counties, which are run by Democrats, election administrators began to raise early alarm about hundreds of mail-in ballot applications that were rejected for not complying with strict new provisions. Had to do

A new 76-page law requires that voters include either their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number, or state-issued identification number, on mail-in ballot applications.

Counties then tally those numbers with their records before sending out the actual ballot. Texas already had some of the most restrictive mail-in ballot rules in the country, and was among only a handful of states that did not expand mail balloting into 2020 during the pandemic.

As of Friday, Harris County officials said they had rejected more than 200 applications from 1,200 Houston area voters. In Austin, county election officials put the rejection rate at around 50%.

“It’s definitely a red flag,” said Harris County Election Administrator Isabel Longoria. “At this point, the number of applications being so low and the 20 percent rejection rate for the primaries? It really worried me.”

The secretary of state’s office said in a statement Friday that counties should check with it how to properly decline mail ballots. It had earlier said that letters warning voters had been sent as part of implementation of the new voting law. That measure includes provisions setting out a process for complying with a 2019 lawsuit settlement, when Texas last tried to kick out noncitizen voters and threats to revoke registration of large numbers of U.S. citizens. was also given.

“Voters who do not provide proof of citizenship to their county voter registrar within 30 days of receiving notice of the test will have their registration revoked, reinstated if the voter subsequently provides proof of citizenship, including at the polling place.” Office spokesman Sam Taylor said.

Taylor said of the 2,327 voters whose registrations have been canceled through the process, 278 have been confirmed as non-citizens.

But civil rights groups say the state is not taking the right steps to ensure that US citizens don’t get caught up in the process. The state should only flag people who had identified on their driving licenses as non-citizens after registering to vote. But it is also catching up to some like Harish Vyala, 35, of Austin, who said he has voted in the county at least twice since becoming a US citizen in 2013.

“I didn’t worry because I know I’m a citizen with proper documentation, but I was surprised because no one had asked me before,” Wyla said, almost a second time in securing her right to vote. Took a month. “The government should already have all these proofs and documents on hand.”