Court Blocks Strict Residency Requirements for Voter Registration in Texas
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 2, a federal court struck down strict residency requirements for voter registration in Texas’ Senate Bill 1111, one of the voter suppression laws Republican legislators passed in 2021. Shortly after the law was enacted in June 2021, the Texas State League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Voto Latino sued multiple Texas counties alleging that the residency requirements, which prohibited individuals from registering to vote where they do not live full time, violate the First, 14th and 26th Amendments. Specifically, the plaintiffs challenged three major provisions of S.B. 1111 that prohibited voters from registering to vote using a prior address after they moved, prevented voters from registering to vote where they did not live full time and created stricter ID requirements for those registering to vote using a P.O. box. Yesterday, the court prevented Texas officials from enforcing the first two provisions in full and the third P.O. box restriction in part (the court found that Texas cannot enforce the provision if it’s clear to registrars that voters do not permanently reside at the P.O. box address at which they register, but the state can otherwise enforce additional requirements for P.O. box registrations). This means voters will not be subject to the strict residency requirements in S.B. 1111 outside of proving their residence when registering using a P.O. box address.
In the order ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the court illustrates S.B. 1111’s burden on college students who live on campus and want to register to vote: “The burden imposed [by SB 1111] is ‘severe,’ if not insurmountable. Such an insurmountable burden is not easily overcome. Certainly not by Texas’s stated interest in ensuring Texans only have one residence. Instead the law renders some Texans without any residence [to vote].” However, the court states that Texas’ interests “justify the PO Box Provision” in reference to voters claiming to live at PO box addresses: “Voter-registration fraud is at risk where voters improperly use a PO Box as their residence address; voters may have a PO Box from the United States Postal Service at many post-office locations in Texas, even if the voters’ home or business is elsewhere.” In cases where the voter is not claiming to live at the P.O. box address, the state has no interest in imposing this burden and cannot do so. In June, a federal court struck down provisions of Senate Bill 1 that limited voter assistance, making this the second federal court decision striking down a Texas voter suppression law.