State Targets Injunction on Voter Registration Measures

Attorneys for the state of Texas say a federal court’s decision to block restrictions for deputy voter registrars has already caused frustration and confusion at the county level and will only hinder voter turnout.

U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa on Thursday ruled that a law that prohibits third-party voter registrars from working in more than one county, and another that mandates registrars in Texas be residents of the state, violate the First Amendment. He also blocked provisions that required deputy voter registrars to be compensated hourly, that prevented registration certificates from being photocopied and that prohibited completed forms from being mailed in to elections officials.

A final judgment on the voter registration provisions must still be rendered, Costa declared. Until then, the laws cannot be enforced. Late Friday, however, the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott advised that it would appeal the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but asked Costa to stay the injunction before its appeal is decided. The timing of the injunction, the office argued, is too close to the Nov. 6 general election.

“An injunction of this kind and this close to the October 9, 2012, deadline for voter registration is certain to cause chaos among both the electorate and the county officials involved in the registration process, injecting even more confusion into an election season that has already seen its primaries significantly delayed,” state attorneys argued in their response.

In an affidavit attached to the motion for a stay, Keith Ingram, the director of the state’s elections division, argued that the current registration process has been in place for about 30 years, and that deputizing voter registrars has traditionally been under the purview of individual counties, not the state.

“County Voter Registrars from all over the State have contacted our office with questions about the order’s effect. Almost uniformly, these local officials have expressed concerns about how to conduct training sessions for potential Volunteer Deputy registrars,” he wrote.

Unlike the partisan gridlock over the voter ID legislation — Senate Bill 14 by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay — which is still being considered by a federal three-judge panel, the provisions enjoined Thursday were precleared by the U.S. Justice Department earlier this year. That means that the Civil Rights Division of the United States Justice Department found the provisions would not infringe on the rights of eligible voters.

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