A federal judge has ruled in favor of civil rights groups who accused Texas of violating a national voter registration law.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio ruled that Texas violated the National Voter Registration Act when it failed to register residents to vote when they updated their drivers’ license information, the Texas Tribune reported on a newly released court order Tuesday.
The federal law requires states give residents the chance to register to vote while applying for or renewing driver licenses.
A voter registration lawsuit, filed in 2016 against the Texas Department of Public Safety and secretary of state, accused the state of disenfranchising thousands of voters.
The suit also accused Texas of violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by treating people who registered for a driver’s license online differently than those who registered person.
According to the plaintiffs, the process to register online was confusing and full of misleading language, the Tribune reported.
Texas does not allow people to register to vote online, so those registering for a license would be directed to a form they had to print out and mail to their county registrar in order to be registered to vote.
The language caused “widespread confusion” among people who incorrectly thought they had properly updated their voter registration, the Tribune reported.
It’s unclear how Garcia will instruct the state to comply with the federal law but said more details would be provided in the upcoming weeks.
The Texas Civil Rights Project asked Garcia to give Texas a 90-day timeline to change its policies so they would be active before the October registration deadline.
This would hopefully introduce the first portal for online voter registration.
For now, civil rights groups told the Texas Tribune they were pleased with the recognition.
“For too long, the state of Texas has ignored federal voting rights laws intended to ensure that all eligible voters have an opportunity to register to vote,” said Beth Stevens, voting rights director at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “We look forward to seeing deep changes in [the Texas Department of Public Safety’s] voter registration practices in the coming months, affecting well over a million Texans every year.”