TRO granted in voter ID lawsuit filed against Bexar County

Southwest Voter Registration Education Project takes legal action

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter, David Ibanez - Web - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - UPDATE: The vice president of the organization that is suing the Bexar County elections administrator opened up to KSAT about what led to the lawsuit. 

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project claims the county has failed to offer the correct information for voter identification requirements during early voting.

A few hours after the lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon, a judge granted a temporary restraining order against Bexar County elections administrator Jacque Callanen, asking her to make corrections to any documents that were causing voters to be confused about ID requirements.

"Remember, they can vote even if they don't have documentation. They can sign an affidavit," said Lydia Camarillo, vice president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

Camarillo said posters and signs at many Bexar County early voting locations did not reflect new federal laws that allow alternatives for voters who lack photo ID.

"There's some places that had both signs. The signs that were produced before the court ruling and then the signs that were produced after the court ruling — some have one, which is the wrong one," Camarillo said.

After hearing from Camarillo's colleagues, Callanen addressed the issue Tuesday at a press conference.

"Throughout the summer as we were preparing for this election, there was a court case going on about the voter ID and that court case changed three different times. The signage, the wrong one was put out there. That was rectified [Tuesday] morning. The staff visited every poll. Every sign up there is correct," Callanen said.

Though Camarillo claims signs were still outdated after that, the elections office released a statement Friday saying that Callanen "corrected any issues that may have existed," and that "these issues were not significant and did not result in a single voter being disallowed to vote."

The lawsuit also claims that the elections hotline gives incorrect information. When calling (210) 335-VOTE, the instructions given say, "Voters are now required to present an approved form of photo identification in order to vote in all Texas elections." The message uses the words "photo identification" multiple times, instead of just "identification."

"Voters could use utility bills and other forms of IDs. We are ensuring that come Election Day, people will not be confused," Camarillo said.

On Friday, Callanen agreed to the temporary restraining order, meaning she will make the requested changes.

The lawsuit also listed the same issues with the Bexar County elections website, but a search of that website Friday afternoon did not show a use of the words "photo ID."  The website only said "ID" and then linked to state websites, so changes may have already been made.

See Callanen’s full statement in the update below.

Updated at 5:33 p.m.:

The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project is no longer listing Judge Nelson Wolff and the rest of the Bexar County Commissioners Court in the lawsuit. The lawsuit now only lists Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen.

The following statement was released late Friday afternoon from the Bexar County Elections Department:

"Today, Jacque Callanen, Bexar County Elections Administrator, agreed to a temporary restraining order in order to avoid a drawn out hearing on the allegations made by Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. 

This election has had evolving changes to the voter ID and the posting requirements at the polling places. The elections office has responded to all issues brought to its attention and corrected any issues that may have existed at the polling places when early voting began. 

These issues were not significant and did not result in a single voter being disallowed to vote. In fact, there has been record voting this election cycle.

However, to ensure the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and voters of Bexar County that its election officials are complying with all of the rules governing this election the Elections Department voluntarily agreed to enter the temporary order."

Updated at 4:15 p.m.:

  • A judge granted a temporary restraining order, which orders the county to:

  • Remove signs will illegal signs and replace them with signs approved by the Texas Secretary of State.

  • Change recorded telephone message and the Bexar County Elections Department website to say "ID" instead of "photo ID."

  • Poll workers have materials approved by the Texas Secretary of State.

  • Notify poll workers that they cannot display outdated voting requirements.

Original Story:

A lawsuit filed Friday accuses Bexar County of failing to comply with provisions of the Texas Election Code by not offering all information for voter ID requirements to eligible voters.

The lawsuit was filed by the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

The defendants include county elections administrator Jacque Callanen, County Judge Nelson Wolff and the Bexar County Commissioner's Court.

The lawsuit claims that early voting polling places displayed signs, posters and other documents that incorrectly advised voters that they had to provide one of seven forms of government-issued photo identification in order to get a regular ballot.

The signs do not properly explain that there are alternatives for voters who lack a photo ID.

The nonprofit and nonpartisan organization claims that the signs and other materials were outdated and used in previous elections and don't apply to this election.

When contacted by KSAT 12 News, county spokeswoman Laura Jesse said that she and other officials were reviewing the lawsuit and didn't have an immediate comment.

Refresh this page for updates and watch KSAT 12 News at 5 for more on this developing story.


 


Copyright 2016 by KSAT - All rights reserved.