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Federal Judge in San Antonio Hands Victory to Voting Rights Groups in Texas 'Motor Voter' Case

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A federal judge ordered Texas to let three citizens register to vote online as part of their drivers license renewals — a preliminary win for voting-rights advocates who argue the state is breaking the law by not permitting online registration.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio on Thursday issued an injunction requiring the state to allow the registrations of three plaintiffs in a suit over the state's voting rules. At a later date, the court is expected to issue a larger ruling covering all Texans' ability to register online.

Federal law requires that states conduct voter registration wherever they allow driver's license renewal, and some 40 states now allow online voter registration.

However, Texas Attorney General Dan Paxton argues the Lone Star State is complying with federal law because its online license renewal portal provides a link to access a voter registration form. However, users must print it out, completed it, purchase postage and mail it.

Voting-rights groups say the Republican-controlled state has made the registration process difficult to keep Democratic-skewing voter blocks, such as young people and low-income residents, away from the polls.

Advocates hailed Thursday's ruling as a win for democracy, saying they're hopeful the case will expand online registration to the rest of the state in time for May and November elections.

“The right to vote is sacred, and expanding access to voter registration was too important for us to not keep fighting,” said H. Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE Texas Civic Fund, a nonprofit that encourages youth political participation. “Online registration has been possible for 18 years. No voter alive today should have to go through the cumbersome and arbitrary processes associated with the paper voter registrations that keeps many from exercising their rights.”

MOVE Texas Action Fund is a plaintiff in the suit.

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