AUSTIN — A federal judge has ordered Texas to issue new voter education materials, siding with those who accused state officials of misleading voters about identification requirements for the November elections.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on Tuesday ordered changes to certain press releases, posters placed at polling locations and materials on state websites related to voting in the Nov. 8 elections.
She also is requiring that “all materials related to the education of voters, poll workers and election officials that have not yet been published shall reflect the language” of a prior court order allowing those who arrive at the polls without one of seven forms of photo identification required under state law to cast a ballot.
Ramos’ order came after the federal government and other groups challenging the state’s photo ID law — ruled discriminatory by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — accused Texas of circulating “inaccurate or misleading information” about a temporary fix she ordered for the upcoming election.
Though voters who possess photo identification are expected to bring it to the polls in November, those without it still have the chance to vote. They may sign an affidavit certifying they are U.S. citizens and present proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck.
Ramos last month ordered Texas to spend $2.5 million to educate the public about these relaxed requirements.
That order said Texas must educate voters about “the opportunity for voters who do not possess” photo identification “and cannot reasonably obtain it to cast a regular ballot.”
But the U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiffs argued that Texas recast the language of that order by limiting voting to those with photo IDs or those who “have not obtained” and “cannot obtain” such identification.
The key difference, plaintiffs argued, was that Texas stripped the word “reasonably,” potentially discouraging those who could obtain photo identification only after surpassing significant hurdles.
Chad Dunn, a Houston-based attorney who represented groups suing the state, suggested the difference was more significant than it might initially sound.
“It’s troubling that the state chose to use language in some of its advertisements that didn’t track exactly the court’s order,” Dunn said.
Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, said Tuesday that her office’s “No. 1 objective is and remains educating voters as clearly and efficiently as possible. We are prepared to respond to the order.”