U.S. Department of Justice Asks To Participate in Texas “Wet Signature” Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to participate in oral argument before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit challenging a Texas election law about voter registration requirements.

The law at issue, House Bill 3107, requires an individual who submits a voter registration application electronically or through fax to also provide a copy of their application with their original signature signed with pen on paper, also known as a “wet-ink” or “wet signature.”

Vote.org, a nonpartisan voter registration and get-out-the-vote technology platform, filed a lawsuit in July 2021 challenging this law. The group argues that Texas’ wet signature requirement places an arbitrary barrier on voting and erects an unnecessary “logistical hurdle” for voters. The lawsuit also points out that H.B. 3107 contradicts the state’s ongoing practice of accepting electronic signatures on registration applications submitted through state agencies, such as the Department of Public Safety. 

Vote.org alleges that the law unduly burdens the right to vote, infringing on the First and 14th Amendments. Additionally, the complaint claims the law violates the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits states from denying individuals the right to vote for reasons unrelated to their eligibility. Vote.org argues that a wet signature is not necessary to determine if a person is eligible to vote.

A federal district court judge blocked the law in June 2022, agreeing with the plaintiffs that Texas’ requirement violates federal law. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and two election officials appealed the decision and the 5th Circuit reinstated the law while the appeal is litigated.

The DOJ previously filed an amicus brief in November 2022 asking the appellate court to uphold the district court’s decision to block the law and is now seeking to participate in oral argument, which is scheduled before the 5th Circuit on March 6, 2023.

Read the DOJ’s motion here.

Learn more about the case here.