News Roundup: Fifth Circuit Court Hears Arguments In Texas ‘Motor Voter’ Case

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 6, 2019 7:48 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Tuesday, Fifth Circuit judges heard oral arguments in a case involving the state’s motor voter law. The Texas Civil Rights Project is challenging the fact that Texas only updates voter registration for people who update their information in-person at a Department of Public Safety office. That does not happen when Texans update their driver’s license information online. And attorneys argue that means the state is treating voters differently, which violates the National Voter Registration Act – or NVRA.

Matthew Frederick represented the state of Texas.

He said the plaintiffs didn’t have any reason to sue because they were able to register to vote. And he told the judges, under state law – an in-person signature is key for voter registration.

“We do believe that under state law we are required to have a signature and that serves at least a couple of the purposes that Congress intended to further in the NVRA, which is protecting the integrity of the election process and maintaining the accuracy of voter registration rolls,” Frederick said.

When it was time for the plaintiffs to share their take, Charles S. Siegel, a partner at Waters and Kraus, LLP, said the lawsuit from the Texas Civil Rights Project does have standing and voters renewing their licenses online were put at a disadvantage.

“When they interacted with DPS online they were not given the NVRA-mandated simultaneous voter registration change,” Waters said.

Plaintiffs in the case estimate that at least 1.5 million Texans complete online transactions with DPS every year and aren’t afforded an opportunity to register to vote or change their registration.

Another Texas case headed back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals involves a challenge to the state’s efforts to kick Planned Parenthood out of its Medicaid program.

As KUT’s Ashley Lopez reports, state officials want to remove Planned Parenthood from the program immediately.

State officials told Planned Parenthood back in 2016 that they were dropping its women’s health clinics from Medicaid because of a highly-edited video purporting to show illegal activity. A year later, a federal court struck down the state’s efforts because the change would affect vulnerable women in need of health services. But then a few weeks ago, the Fifth Circuit lifted a court order that was stopping the state from removing Planned Parenthood. Now all the judges in the Fifth Circuit say they plan to weigh in on the case. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement that he’s hoping the court says “Planned Parenthood cannot challenge the state’s decision to remove from it from the Texas Medicaid program.

Former U.S. Representative and Senate contender, Beto O’Rourke, says he will decide whether he’s running for president in 2020 by the end of February. The Texas Democrat broke the news during a Tuesday taping of Oprah Winfrey’s “SuperSoul Conversations from Times Square.”

Fellow Texas Democrat Julian Castro declared his candidacy last month.