Judge Blocks Provisions of Voter Registration Laws

Galveston federal judge Gregg Costa ruled that restrictions on voter registration rallies were unconstitutional.

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Galveston district court judge Gregg Costa ruled against new voter registration laws in Texas on Thursday, effectively blocking five provisions from being enforced.

The lawsuit was originally filed by the nonpartisan group Voting for America, which argued that the provisions preventing voter registration rallies were unconstitutional. Costa agreed, and wrote in his 94-page decision that the state did not provide sufficient evidence that the new laws were designed to combat voter fraud.

“If these practices did contribute to fraud, concrete examples of such fraud would likely exist from decades of experience,” Costa wrote. “But no such evidence was introduced for the Court to weigh against the harm to Plaintiffs.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Chad Dunn celebrated Costa’s decision, telling the Houston Chronicle that groups like Voting for America and Project Vote would benefit greatly.

“These drives are important to reaching the millions of Texans, including three-quarters of a million African-Americans and 2 million Latinos, who are eligible but still not registered to vote,” Dunn said.

Other provisions of the laws were similarly blocked, according to the Texas Tribune, including provisions preventing voter registrars from being paid in any way other than hourly, as well as preventing photocopies of registration certificates.

A similar set of laws were blocked in Florida this past May. According to CBS News, federal judge Robert Hinkle referred to portions of the laws as “onerous” and that a deadline the laws put in place did more harm than good.

“If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed,” Hinkle said in his 27-page decision.

Costa, who has been serving on the court since May after being nominated by President Barack Obama last September, agreed in his own decision, writing, “The result is that Texas now imposes more burdensome regulations on those engaging in third-party voter registration than the vast majority of, if not all, other states.”

Rich Parsons, communications director for Texas’ Secretary of State, told the Associated Press that no decision has yet been made about appeal, but the plaintiff’s attorney, Dunn, told the Chronicle he expects the attorney general could appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This Legislature will do anything to prevent Texans from voting,” Dunn told the Chronicle.

If there is an appeal, the new voter registration laws will remain unenforceable until a final judgment is rendered.

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