U.S. Justice Dept. Joins Vote.org for Oral Arguments in Texas Voter Suppression Case
WASHINGTON – Vote.org, the largest 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan voting registration and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) technology platform in America, will argue before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the organization's case against the state of Texas and several county election administrators today, Monday, March 6, 2023.
On Thursday, July 16, 2022, Vote.org won a victory in this case when a federal court struck down the Texas “wet signature” law. In a summary judgment order, the federal court blocked the provision of House Bill 3107 that required people registering to vote to physically sign their application with a wet signature.
The arguments on March 6, which are part of an appeal of the federal court’s ruling, will be livestreamed here, as they are taking place at the University of Mississippi School of Law. The U.S. Department of Justice submitted an amicus brief in support of Vote.org’s position and will also argue on behalf of the United States in the case. Vote.org is represented by attorneys from Elias Law Group.
The suit was filed against the state’s wet signature law, which requires a wet ink signature on voter registration applications. This law disproportionately burdens underrepresented voters, creating a real barrier to voting across the Lone Star State.
“Since 2020, states across the country have passed – or attempted to pass – laws that are aimed at directly suppressing the vote. Voter suppression has no place in a thriving democracy, and we’ll do everything in our power to prevent these laws from succeeding in their undemocratic goals,” said Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org. “Texas’ wet signature law prevents eligible voters from registering to vote, disproportionately targeting underrepresented groups — especially people of color, low-income voters and young people — across the Lone Star State. This law has nothing to do with determining whether someone trying to register is qualified and it mirrors discriminatory voting laws that have targeted people of color from accessing the vote for more than a century after the ratification of the 15th Amendment. Vote.org is grateful to Elias Law Group for our continued partnership in fighting anti-voter laws and to the U.S. Department of Justice for joining us and supporting our position in this important case. We’re hopeful that the Fifth Circuit will come to the same conclusion as all of us and the federal court that already ruled in our favor. ”
“Texas’s antiquated Wet Signature Rule, like so many other voter suppression laws, serves no purpose other than to make voting harder for Texans,” said Elias Law Group attorney Uzoma Nkwonta. “We look forward to making our case that this outdated and unlawful voter registration rule should be blocked to protect Texas citizen’s fundamental right to vote.”
Under the wet signature rule, voters must sign their registration applications by hand using a pen, as opposed to digital or e-signatures (signatures that are applied electronically). The law discourages eligible voters from registering to vote by creating an unnecessary extra step in the process, disproportionately burdens underrepresented groups — especially people of color, the elderly, disabled populations, and low-income voters who may not have access to printers. The law additionally discourages young people from registering to vote as they overwhelmingly utilize digital signatures in daily actions such as banking, applying for personal loans or signing contracts.
Additionally, there is historical significance surrounding the timing of the oral arguments.
“The late Congressman John Lewis and other civil rights leaders helped to cement voting rights after they marched on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March, 1965. It is sobering to reflect that today, 57 years later, we’re still fighting to ensure all Americans have equitable access to make their voice heard at the ballot box,” added Hailey.
Several other groups have filed amicus briefs in support of Vote.org’s position, including the American Civil Liberties (ACLU), and the Texas and Louisiana branches of the NAACP. Their briefs provided additional arguments in support of the arguments made in Vote.org’s brief.