Scott Ball / Rivard Report
If you registered to vote via Vote.org, you are not actually able to vote in the upcoming election.
At least, not yet.
According to Sam Taylor, spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of State, voter registration applications submitted through the popular voter registration site are not valid in Texas. That’s because the State requires registrants to physically sign their applications prior to submission.
More than 2,400 Texans applied through Vote.org, including 450 from Bexar County, according to Sarah Jackel, the nonprofit’s general counsel.
Vote.org had asked Texas applicants to take a picture of their signature, which would then be attached to the application sent to county registrars. But digital signatures on voter registration applications are not acceptable, Taylor said.
Texas is one of 12 states that does not offer online registration, and the feature for applying online through Vote.org was pulled Tuesday afternoon.
“There are very specific codes in the Texas Election Code that authorize digital signatures,” Taylor said. “At a [Department of Public Safety] office when renewing your driver license, the DPS has to inform you the digital signature is used for voter registration. Military and overseas voters also have that option in specific circumstances.”
But Jackel told the Rivard Report the Texas Election Code allows for applications to be submitted in person, by mail, or by “telephonic facsimile machine.”
“I personally don’t think a scan is any different than a photograph,” Jackel said. “I’m not aware of any legal authority to support the position that a photograph would be less genuine or valid than [a document] scanned through a scanner.”
Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant told the Dallas Morning News that the county would accept applications from Vote.org.
Jacque Callanen, Bexar County elections administrator, said her department would process applications they received from Vote.org just like they would any other application. People who tried to register through the website will get a letter telling them their application was incomplete, and include their pre-filled out application for them to sign.
“We already have a procedure on how we’re going to handle this,” Callanen said. “We get cards in where [applicants] haven’t checked a box or they may have forgotten to sign it. Those are incomplete applications. The process in Texas is when you get those, we send out [a notice of] incomplete.”
Bexar County residents who receive an “incomplete” letter must finish their application — whether that be physically signing it or checking off a required box — and send it back to the Elections Department within 10 days of receiving the notice, Callanen said.
“There’s no extra process,” she said. “We didn’t panic. It’s our normal course of business.”
Jackel said Vote.org emailed Texans who applied through their website about the update on Thursday morning and also sent out printed forms with envelopes pre-addressed to county registrars and stamped for applicants to sign and mail.
Those who have not yet registered to vote still can utilize Vote.org to download and print a voter application form.
“We may not be able to get any meaningful relief for Texans whose voter registration statuses are jeopardized,” Jackel said, “but in the long term, we’re definitely considering our options whether or not to challenge this.”
She said she hoped Texas lawmakers would pass online voter registration in the next legislative session and modernize the State’s system.
“It’s so much more cost-effective and secure,” Jackel said. “States who have it have much higher participation overall. We’d be happy to talk to them about it.”
Voter registration ends Oct. 9. Find out more about registering to vote here.