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Group Looks to High Court to Stop Voter Registration Laws

An advocacy group has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop new voter registration laws before next month's deadline to register.

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An voting rights advocacy group on Friday filed an emergency appeal with the nation’s highest court, hoping it will overturn an appellate court’s decision it says hinders voter registration in Texas.

In February, Project Vote filed a lawsuit alleging that five new laws passed by the 82nd Legislature were unfairly burdensome to voters. In August, U.S. District Judge Gregg Costa of Galveston granted a temporary injunction against the provisions, which include a law that prohibits third-party voter registrars from working in multiple counties and another that mandates registrars in Texas be residents of the state. Provisions that required deputy voter registrars to be paid hourly, that prevented registration certificates from being photocopied and that prohibited completed forms from being mailed to elections officials were also enjoined.

But in a decision Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called "a victory for voter integrity”, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans stayed the injunction last week.

In its appeal, Project Vote alleges that the laws violate voters' constitutional right to free speech, which Costa agreed with in his original decision. He also ruled that the new laws would hinder turnout at the polls in November.

“Voter registration drives have played a vital role in increasing participation in the political process,” Costa wrote. “This is especially true in minority communities with historically lower rates of voter registration.”

But the appeal may have come too late. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides to meet in an emergency session, it will not convene until its regular term begins in October. The deadline to register to vote during the Nov. 6 election in Texas is Oct. 9.

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