By Robert Beckhusen
I recently talked to border and immigration reporter Julian Aguilar about House Bill 2194, which ensures voter registrars meet the same requirements as registered voters.
[Rep. Jim] Murphy’s bill lays out new training requirements for deputy registrars, which may include a test at the end of their training. The intent is to make certain that a deputy registrar “can perform all the duties required and to increase efficiency in county clerks’ offices by reducing some of the time and paperwork involved in processing voter registration applications,” according to the bill analysis. But the Brennan Center says the laws, taken together, will reduce the registration rate, partly because state governments do not make an aggressive effort to register voters. They “instead rely on individual voters to ensure that they are registered,” the study says.
“The laws are another step in making it harder to register and harder to vote overall in the state of Texas,” says Lee Rowland, who serves as counsel to the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Division. “And it’s coming at a time when registration rates are lower than they have been in the past.”
Rowland argues the new citizenship requirement will disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics, who are more likely than whites to register through registration drives. In 2004, about 13 percent of new black and Hispanic voters were registered through drives, versus about 8 percent of non-Hispanic whites, according to U.S. Census data cited in the report. In 2008, 5.4 percent of new white voters were registered through private drives compared with 11 percent of new black voters and 9.6 percent of new Hispanic voters.
Aguilar spoke to an audience of Texas State students and Laredo area high school students on Oct. 20, 2011 during Mass Comm Week. He was joined by San Antonio Express-News reporter Jason Buch to discuss reporting on the border, immigration issues and drug-related violence in Mexico.