From Jacquelyn Callanen’s perch in the Bexar County elections office, the period following Texas’ voter registration deadlines is best described as a paper tsunami. Some of it arrives by mail. Some stacks are delivered by volunteer voter registrars. The secretary of state’s office sends over a handful of boxes filled to the brim. No matter the carrier, last-minute drives to register people by the 30-day deadline ahead of each election typically leave local elections offices with a surge of work. To make sure prospective voters make it onto the rolls in time for Election Day, county offices have to hire temporary workers to help thumb through and process tens of thousands of voter registration cards and applications. “We hope and pray that all the cards are filled out completely,” Callanen said.
If they aren’t, officials have to mail notices for incomplete applications. By the time voters respond, they’re “right on the cusp” of the start of voting and officials end up “trying to register people literally two days before Election Day,” Callanen said.
The mad dash to complete these tasks before the first day of early voting is in part a result of Texas’ refusal to allow for online voter registration, which is already in place in the vast majority of states. But Texas could be forced to create at least one narrow avenue for online voter registration after a federal judge ruled that the state is violating the National Voter Registration Act, a decades-old federal law that aims to make it easier for people to register to vote by forcing states to allow registration when drivers apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.