The federal Justice Department is participating in court proceedings over a challenged law in Texas that requires at least some prospective voters filling out their registration forms online to also submit a physical copy of their registration form featuring their signature.
That measure doesn’t provide any acutely useful mechanism for determining an individual’s right to vote. Texas doesn’t even have no-excuse mail-in voting available to its residents, meaning an absentee voting process in which any resident who is otherwise eligible to vote can participate, so it’s not as though authorities are conducting signature checks on mail-in ballots en masse. (Many other states make mail-in voting available to all residents.)
At this stage of the litigation before a federal appeals court over the dubious requirements, which were temporarily reinstated as the case moves forward, the Justice Department is seeking to join upcoming oral arguments, which are scheduled for March. The department has already filed a written argument with the same appeals court against the Texas law. The underlying case providing the backdrop for the department’s arguments was filed by Vote.org, which as its name suggests generally helps prospective voters access materials online to assist in their registration process.
The case argues violations in the Texas rules of both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act, which restricts authorities from blocking residents from casting a ballot with excuses that don’t directly relate to whether they’re actually eligible to participate in elections. An idea with the provisions would be to curtail voter suppression that takes the form of arbitrary hurdles around voter registration. In terms of the fundamental, basic terms of eligibility to vote as generally established by the law, solving a math problem isn’t relevant — and neither is submitting a physical signature.
According to the government’s filing seeking participation in the federal appeals arguments, the plaintiff’s team in the case agreed to provide a portion of its own allotted time — five minutes — for the government’s arguments, and a group of defendants including Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t oppose the motion. “The United States, through the Attorney General, has a direct role in enforcing the Provision,” the government’s new filing noted, referring to the contested portions of the Civil Rights Act. The rules in Texas mirror similarly baseless changes to the handling of elections promoted and passed by Republican officials around the country that do not reasonably connect to documented problems of fraud, of which there remains little evidence (and zero on the systematic scale Trump and others claim).
Ohio Republicans were among the first at the state level after the 2022 midterm elections enacting new changes, including new ID restrictions demanding that a voter showing up to an in-person polling place present one of four specific forms of photo identification, which could penalize voters who might struggle to obtain the needed materials. The rules, as enacted, also cut — by more than half — the time period after Election Day in which local authorities could receive mailed ballots, potentially disenfranchising those living long distances away, like members of the military and their families. (Ballots still weren’t accepted if postmarked after the election. The rules helped with issues like postal delays.)