A federal judge says Texas has violated its agreement to soften the state’s voter ID law.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an order on Tuesday, demanding that the state change its voter outreach efforts and “re-issue its press releases concerning voting to properly reflect the language in the Court’s Order”.
The state agreed to weaken its strict voter ID law in July, after a federal appeals court found the 2011 Texas law discriminated against minorities and the poor.
Under the agreement, Texas voters who do not posses photo identification can still vote in November. They may sign an affidavit certifying that they are a U.S. citizen and present proof of residency.
Texas also agreed to spend $2.5 million in outreach to educate voters on these new changes.
“Because the law is so rapidly changing, it is incredibly important that the information be widely distributed to all Texans in a timely and aggressive manner,” Cassandra Champion with the Texas Civil Rights Project said. “So they know exactly what they are required to bring to the polls.”
Champion says a weaker voter ID law would give more than 700,000 registered voters in Texas the chance to vote this November.
“These are Texas residents who could not obtain a photo ID or did not have one, and now all of these people will be eligible to go and cast their vote this election cycle,” Champion said. “This is hugely important because historically Texas has some of the most restrictive voter laws in the nation and there is no reason for that.”
Champion says these voters could really sway the way Texas votes, but it doesn’t do any good if they don’t know about it.
“We see Texas pushing back again and again,” Champion said. “They are nitpicking with the language and just making it harder and I do see this as an intentional way to decrease access.”
Texas has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country. During the 2012 November presidential election, only 58 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. Champion said a weaker law will likely change that.
“All eyes on Texas,” Champion said, “and I think we are going to make a big difference.”
The Texas Secretary of State’s office released a statement on Tuesday saying officials are prepared to respond to the order “as clearly and efficiently as possible”.
The last day to register to vote in Texas is October 11. For more information on how to register, click here.