If you’re a nonprofit doing voter engagement work, you already know that voting laws are always shifting. Whether it’s recent adoptions of same day voter registrations, tighter voter ID laws or the expansion (or subtraction) of vote by mail options — the landscape is always changing and sometimes it can be hard to keep your feet beneath you.
2022 is no different. Whether you work in Texas or not, you’ve probably heard about a new law that has been making headlines. As reported by KUT 5 (Austin’s NPR station) Senate Bill 1, which went into effect last month, dictates that “voters will now have to provide — on both their vote-by-mail application and the actual ballot — their driver’s license number or Social Security number.” In the wake of the new law, there are reports of “hundreds” of ballot applications have been rejected in populous counties like Harris, Travis and Bexar.
To get a better sense of what this law feels like on the ground and how local nonprofits are reacting and preparing, we talked with members of the League of Women Voters and MOVE Texas.
Q: When it comes to the new SB1 law, we’re seeing headlines saying hundreds of vote by mail applications are being rejected in populous counties like Harris, Travis, and Bexar. What does your organization find to be the most challenging part of the new law?
A: “We’re seeing these applications rejected en mass for simple mistakes like voters using an older version of the application or not correctly filling out the new portion. Hundreds of applications for vote by mail have been rejected as a result so far,” says Charlie Bonner, the Communications Director at MOVE Texas.
Q: How are you letting your clients know about the recent changes and do you yet have a sense of what is and what isn’t working?
A: Dorothy Marchand, Vice President Voter Engagement at LWV Texas, says: “We provide webinars, videos, pamphlets, and graphics to educate folks on the new law. We provide voter education on our nonpartisan Voter Guides available in print at libraries across Texas, as a pdf on our website LWVTexas.org and online at VOTE411.org. We also are working with other organizations to increase our reach. The goal of our voter education is to take the complicated election law and make it simple.“
“We are looking into testing messaging ahead of the general election on how voters should navigate changes and some defiance messaging about voter suppression being a mobilizing issue,” says Bonner.
Q: How does your organization say abreast of pending changes in voting laws?
A: Bonner explains, “We work closely with our legal partners at the Texas Civil Rights Project and the ACLU whose lawyers review changes in the law and help movement groups navigate those changes.” “The LWV takes an active role in supporting our voting rights positions during the legislative sessions,” says Chimene. “Our volunteers follow the bills, provide testimony, work with representatives, and share Action Alerts with supports. We provide insight to legislators into the impact of voting and election legislation of voters.”
Working in Texas and want to stay connected to official sources on voting laws and regulations — visit our “Voting in Your State” page.
See how your organization can better support voters who want to vote by mail.