Online Voter Registration Dead Thanks to Harris County Republicans

Harris County Republicans have singlehandedly killed a bill that would have allowed Texans the ability to register to vote online. House Bill 76, co-authored by Texas State Representative Celia Israel of House District 50, is a bipartisan three-page bill that would let voters with a valid (unexpired) Texas driver’s license or personal identification card to submit their voter registration application over an official state website maintained by the Secretary of State.

Voter registration applications submitted online would be considered and treated, for all intents and purposes, like an application submitted by mail. In other words, any concerns of potential voter fraud are moot since HB-76 would only create an alternative method for voters to register. Other than registering to vote when you apply for a state-issued driver license or identification card, there is only one other way to register to vote in Texas. You must print, fill out and mail your application to your Voter Registrar for your county.

Merely, registering to vote does not automatically give you the ability to vote in Texas. The Voter Registrar would need to verify your application to confirm that you are indeed eligible to vote; upon acceptance your voter registration would become effective thirty (30) days from registration.

HB-76 should be enacted and no one will be opposed to the idea of making registering to vote easier for Texans. Seems pretty straight forward, right? Wrong! Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Mike Sullivan and Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, by and through Ed Johnson, rolled into Austin and were able to derail HB-76 during a meeting of the House Elections Committee.

Sullivan claims that, “[Texas] is not ready,” for online voter registration. He argued the potential risk of fraud or security breaches outbalance any benefit obtained from making voter registration easier. Yet, Sullivan failed to show, at a minimum one online voter registration website that has been compromised. Samuel Derheimer of Pew Charitable Trusts testified that, “No state with online voter registration has reported fraudulent activity or security breaches occurring through their systems.” Pew reports that a majority of Texas voters favor online voter registration according to a poll conducted in 2014.

“Texas wants this. The majority of the people on this floor want this,” said Israel, D-Austin, but ultimately pronounced HB-76 dead, according to the Houston Chronicle.

As a Harris County resident, I have engaged both the Tax Assessor-Collector and Harris County Clerk websites. Let us just say, both of those websites are stuck in the stone-age. Although to be fair, Sullivan’s website is not as bad as Stanart’s website.

Which brings me to my next point; the Elections Committee is listening to comments from Ed Johnson, the Senior Director of the IT Department at the Harris County Clerk’s Office? Has he ever used the HCCO website? It is horrible! Sometimes it does not work because there are technical issues.

Sullivan, Stanart and Johnson should all be ashamed of themselves for denying Texas and Texans of progress. As fear-mongerers, they are making it seem that by allowing voters to register online, Texas will become the Wild West with rampant voter fraud. For some reason, they do not think that Texas has the technological wherewithal to embrace this task, even though twenty other states boast online voter registration websites. Last time I checked, I could renew my Texas Drivers License online; check if I am registered to vote online; and renew my motor vehicle registration online.

I encourage you to contact each member of the Elections Committee to voice your support for legislation that would make it easier for Texans to register to vote.

What do you think? Why are Sullivan and Stanart opposed to the idea of making voter registration easier? Is this part of the GOP platform? Then, why does HB-76 enjoy bipartisan support? Do you agree that Texas is not ready for online voter registration? Would you like the ability to register to voter online? Why or why not?