New restrictions on voting rights this year aren’t confined to photo ID requirements at the polls. In a number of states, the hydra-headed war on voting is targeting people who want to help register others to vote as well.
Nowhere is this more true than the state of Texas. In a bill deemed by the Gov. Rick Perry (R) to be “emergency legislation,” the Texas legislature altered the state’s election law to not only require photo ID at the ballot box, but also place major new restrictions on groups and individuals conducting voter registration drives.
The new law – which is currently pending review by the Justice Department to determine if it satisfies Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act – forbids anyone from becoming a volunteer deputy registrar and helping register others to vote if that person is not an eligible Texas voter himself.
ThinkProgress spoke with a number of groups in Texas about what the changes will mean for voters. Luis Figueroa, an attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, pointed out that the new law would bar permanent legal residents who are in the process of becoming citizens from engaging in the political process by registering others. Similarly, Jessica Gomez of Disability Rights Texas observed that a number of people with disabilities have a “full guardianship” – a term for those whose have a mental incapacity that restricts them from voting. As a result, they are not eligible Texas voters and would be forbidden from registering others.
Gomez noted one individual in particular who for years carried around voter registration forms in his wheelchair because even though he couldn’t vote, registering others made him feel more a part of the community.
Figueroa and Gomez both agreed that by banning certain people from helping register others, a large number of would-be voters will fall through the cracks of the political process.
Watch their interviews:
A major study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that in 2008 alone, over 5 percent of all new registered voters – 26,000 individuals – did so via a registration drive. If the Justice Department allows the new Texas law to go into effect, that number could drop significantly in 2012.