A civil rights group based in Austin has released a new report that alleges the Texas Secretary of State is not doing enough to explain the process for voter registration or get people signed up to vote.
The report, released by the Austin-based Texas Civil Rights Project, shows a steady decline in the number of people registering to vote from November 2012 to November 2013. The Texas Civil Rights Project’s Jim Harrington points to a lack of enforcement and lack of pressure coming from the Secretary of State’s office.
Harrington says their investigation of the voter registration process focused on three areas:
“One was the role of the Secretary of State, the second area was the lack of participation by school districts, and the third area that we focused on was the seven agencies that are required by law to register folks when they come in for service, [and how they] don’t do that.”
Harrington posits, “You begin to wonder, [when] you have the legislature making it more difficult to vote, is the Secretary of State playing into this game too?”
Harrington says their report examined how many school districts are requesting high school students sign up to vote; he says a large majority of school districts don’t even mention voter registration for fear of being accused of trying to sway a student’s ballot.
Although the TCRP’s report says voting registrations are down, Alicia Pearce, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, says the number of people casting a ballot is up in Texas.
Pearce says, “In 2012 we set a record number of voter registrations and we are going to keep growing and seeing that evolve. That is a part of our voter education campaign that we did.”
Pearce adds, “We’ve spent millions of dollars on voter education efforts, we communicate through our social networks, through our website… we’re out there everyday encouraging people to be a part of the process.”
Pearce also points to the twenty-five mobile stations the Secretary of State sent out after Texas’ new Voter ID law took effect, and that their office is in the process of launching another voter education program with versions in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin.
The Texas Civil Rights Project outlines several recommendations as part of their report including more oversight of state agencies that are by law required to sign people up to vote when they received state services.