Voter advocacy groups ask DOJ to step in as Texas allows some ballots to be identified

4 weeks ago 29

The request for the U.S. Department of Justice to protect voters comes after Texas undermined ballot secrecy in the name of election transparency.

By Natalia Contreras, VoteBeat

This article was originally published by Votebeat, a nonprofit news organization covering local election administration and voting access.

A coalition of watchdog and voter advocacy groups asked the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday to use “all available legal authorities” to protect the secrecy of ballots after Votebeat and The Texas Tribune confirmed that the private choices some voters make in the voting booth can in some instances be identified using public, legally available records.

The two news organizations reported on the limited ability to identify how some people vote after an independent news site published what it said was the image of the ballot a former state GOP chair cast in the March 5 Republican primary.

The League of Women Voters of Texas, American Oversight, the Campaign Legal Center, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice cited the investigation by Votebeat and The Tribune that replicated a series of steps that could identify a specific person’s ballot choices using public records. The outlets did not detail the precise information or process needed to do so.

The advocacy groups said the ability to identify how people vote could lead to voter intimidation.

“Texans should not have to fear that their right to a secret ballot can be compromised, nor should they have to fear any other adverse consequences flowing from the compromise of that right—such as exposure of the ballot being wielded to threaten or intimidate them and their loved ones,” the groups wrote in the letter, addressed to Tamar Hagler, the chief of the voting section of the the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

The groups’ request to the Justice Department comes a week after the Texas Secretary of State’s Office issued emergency guidance to local election officials, telling them, among other things, to “redact any information on the precinct election records or on the ballot image that identifies the location at which a voter voted.”

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