Thursday, May 16, 2013

TX Electronic Voter Registration Reform

A recently passed Texas law reforms electronic voter registration. HB 2263 does not directly apply to initial electronic voter registration. Rather, it reforms how voter registration certificates (registration cards) are requested electronically and how they will be delivered.

HB 2263 has passed both houses of the Texas 83rd Legislature and is bound for Governor Perry's signature.

The new law enables voters to request replacement voter registration certificates electronically. However, it mandates those new certificates be mailed only to the address on record with the Secretary of State.

Voters can now request the new certificate via email or other electronic means. In addition, voters can make the request via telephone. However, changing address requires the request to be made in-person. The replacement cards are only in the event of damage or loss.

obtain a replacement certificate by: 
             (1)  delivering a written or electronic[, signed] notice of the loss or destruction to the registrar; or 
             (2)  telephoning the registrar to request a replacement
       (b)  A replacement certificate requested electronically under Subsection (a)(1) or by telephone under Subsection (a)(2) may be sent only to the mailing address on the voter's registration records.

The registrar (under the Secretary of State) must maintain a hard-copy of the request attached to the registered voters' records.

       (d) [(c)]  The registrar shall retain a written or electronic [the] notice submitted under Subsection (a)(1) on file with the voter's registration application. If the voter requests a replacement registration certificate by telephone under Subsection (a)(2), the registrar shall make a written record of the request and keep the record on file with the voter's registration application.

The full law as enrolled and forwarded to the Governor's Office is available here.

Affects On Voter Registration Fraud

Mandating electronic voter registration replacement requests return a certificate only to the residence of record may help to combat voter fraud. Some individuals perpetrating voter fraud will request replacement cards under a stolen identity, attempting to receive them at a new address. The criminals will then vote in place of the actual registered voter.

However, this law may also permit another form of voter fraud. In some cases, voter registration volunteers will assist voters in registering. However, they put a different address on the registration. The registrations then go to someone intending upon fraudulently using the registration to vote in place of the intended registered voter. Should the fraudulent address be substituted on the initial registration form, the voter will not be able to receive a replacement card.

Other new laws may assist in prevention of the second scenario. For example, one new law restricts how many early and absentee ballots a voting assistance officer/volunteer may return to 10. Others require certain proof of residence and identity when initially registering to vote. Combined with HB 2263, they may better increase voter integrity in Texas.