RELEASE: Civil rights groups put the Texas Workforce Commission on notice for violating federal voting rights laws
For Immediate Release
Monday, February 12, 2018
We estimate that every year, the state agency fails to offer voter registration services to over 74,000 people with disabilities who use vocational rehabilitation services
Austin, Texas — In violation of the federal National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”), over 74,000 people with disabilities in Texas are not being offered voter registration services annually, according to a letter sent today to the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”) by the Texas Civil Rights Project (“TCRP”), Disability Rights Texas (“DRTX”), and Norton Rose Fulbright on behalf of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (“CTD”).
Under the decades-old NVRA, Texas is required to provide voter registration services to people with disabilities who obtain vocational rehabilitation services from state agencies. However, since taking over vocational rehabilitation services from the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (“DARS”) in September of 2016, TWC has failed to provide those voter registration services.
The agency’s failures have harmed and continue to harm CTD’s members and CTD’s efforts to educate voters with disabilities about their rights and mobilize the disability vote — stealing away the promise of democracy for hundreds of thousands of Texans with disabilities.
The groups seek TWC’s commitment to fully comply with the NVRA in order to avoid litigation. In 2016, TCRP sued the Texas Department of Public Safety for similar violations of the NVRA for failing to offer voter registration services to the over 1 million Texans who renew their driver’s licenses online.
Beth Stevens, Voting Rights Program Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, issued the following statement:
“Participation makes our democracy stronger and democracy is who we are as Texans. Right now, the Texas Workforce Commission is failing to live up to our society’s promise of participation, regardless of the disabilities Texans may have. We are inviting TWC to meet with us immediately to resolve these issues and enter into full compliance with the NVRA. If, however, they fail to remedy these violations, we will pursue legal action. It’s time for Texas to guarantee that everyone can enjoy full participation in our democracy, starting by having a fair shot at registering to vote.”