Report: Election-Administration Failures Affected 278,000 Texas Voters

click to enlarge Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field. - SANFORD NOWLIN
Sanford Nowlin
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field.
Despite a wave of civic engagement in the 2018 election, at least 278,000 Texas voters were affected by election-administration failures, invalidating their ballots or sometimes preventing them from casting ballots at all, according to a new research report.

The Texas Civil Rights Project today issued the report, which is based on public election information and data from the largest non-partisan election-protection effort in the state. Among the problems it documented were late poll openings, long lines, lack of polling places on college campuses, voting machine malfunctions, voter intimidation and noncompliance with the National Voter Registration Act.

To put things in perspective, the 278,000 voters caught up in those problems is larger in number than Ted Cruz's victory margin over Beto O'Rourke.

“Across Texas, the 2018 election brought a surge of civic engagement energy. We saw record-breaking voter registration and turnout rates in almost every county," said Emily Eby, the report's author and a staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a written statement. "Unfortunately, Texas’ election administration did not keep up with voters.”

Voter registration in Texas reached 79 percent of the voting age population for 2018, the highest percentage since the 2004 presidential election. Of those registered, more than half showed up at the polls — a 20-percent increase from the 2014 midterms.

The Texas Civil Rights Project's report concluded that state officials failed to set up the necessary infrastructure to ensure an efficient and fair election. What's more, it runs the risk of worse gaffes in 2020, where an even greater turnout is expected.

“Through our Election Protection efforts, we heard directly from voters about the problems they encountered in the voting booth due to the state’s unwillingness to bring our democracy into the 21st Century," Eby added. "There is an urgent need for Texas to reform its antiquated election infrastructure immediately and this report sheds light on how many voters were harmed by the state’s election administration failures.”

Civil rights groups have blasted Texas for being among the least voter-friendly states, since it doesn't offer online or automatic voter registration. It's also faced scrutiny for its aggressive purges of voter rolls.

In recent weeks, the state has been faced national embarrassment and civil rights lawsuits over a botched voter-fraud purge that flagged thousands of voters simply for being naturalized citizens.

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