Stringer v. Pablos, CIVIL NO. SA-16-CA-257-OG

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
Writing for the CourtORLANDO L. GARCIA, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation320 F.Supp.3d 862
Parties Jarrod STRINGER, et al. v. Rolando PABLOS, in his official capacity as Texas Secretary of State and Steven C. McCraw, in his official capacity as Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. SA-16-CA-257-OG
Decision Date10 May 2018

320 F.Supp.3d 862

Jarrod STRINGER, et al.
v.
Rolando PABLOS, in his official capacity as Texas Secretary of State and Steven C. McCraw, in his official capacity as Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety

CIVIL NO. SA-16-CA-257-OG

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division.

Signed May 10, 2018


320 F.Supp.3d 867

Cassandra Lang Champion, Mimi M.D. Marziani, Rebecca Harrison Stevens, Texas Civil Rights Project, Wayne Krause Yang, Texas Legal Services Center, Austin, TX, Charles S. Siegel, Peter A. Kraus, Rachel A. Gross, Pro Hac Vice, Caitlyn E. Silhan, Waters & Kraus, LLP, Hani Mirza, Texas Civil Rights Project, Dallas, TX, Ryan V. Cox, Texas Civil Rights Project, San Antonio, TX, for Jarrod Stringer, et al.

Anne Marie Mackin, Esteban San Miguel Soto, Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Austin, TX, for Rolando Pablos, in his official capacity as Texas Secretary of State and Steven C. McCraw, in his official capacity as Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

ORDER

ORLANDO L. GARCIA, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 77) and also Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (docket no. 82). The parties have filed responses (docket nos. 85, 88) and replies (docket nos. 87, 89). The Court has reviewed the record and the applicable law, and finds that Plaintiffs' motion should be granted and Defendants' motion should be denied.

I.

Statement of the case

This case concerns Texas's compliance with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) (also known as the "motor voter law"), 52 U.S.C. § 20501, et. seq., which was enacted in 1993 under the Elections Clause to make the voter registration process easier and more convenient, thus increasing voter registration and participation.1 The only six states exempt from its requirements are those that have no voter registration or allow election day voter registration at the polls.2 Texas is not one of them.3

II.

Applicable standard

Summary judgment is proper when the evidence shows "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a) ; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 250-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Rule 56"mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails ... to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Curtis v. Anthony , 710 F.3d 587, 594 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ).

The Court must draw reasonable inferences and construe evidence in favor of the

320 F.Supp.3d 868

nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Although the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, a nonmovant may not rely on "conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence" to create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to survive summary judgment. Freeman v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice , 369 F.3d 854, 860 (5th Cir. 2004).

III.

The claims, defenses, and underlying facts

Plaintiffs are eligible Texas voters who engaged in NVRA-covered online driver's license transactions but were denied simultaneous voter registration applications and thereafter disenfranchised. They assert that the State of Texas, by and through the Department of Public Safety and the Secretary of State, engages in a practice that deprives Texans of their federal right to register to vote or update their voter registration simultaneously with their online driver's license renewal and change of address transactions. Plaintiffs allege that this practice, dating back several years, violates the NVRA and Equal Protection clause. Although advised of the violation, and admittedly able to change its practice and procedure, the State of Texas has refused to integrate voter registration into its online driver's license renewal and change of address process to ensure compliance with federal law.

Plaintiffs seek summary judgment on their claims that Defendants' online process violates the NVRA and Equal Protection clause. They also seek summary judgment on Defendants' affirmative defenses, including immunity, standing, and mootness.

Defendants admit that the key facts of this case are undisputed4 and essentially argue that state law prevents them from complying with federal law. Defendants seek summary judgment on the following grounds: Article III standing, statutory standing, mootness, and on the merits – based on their interpretation of the NVRA, state election law, and the Equal Protection clause.

The parties have stipulated to the following facts:

1. Defendant Rolando Pablos is the Texas Secretary of State ("SOS") and, under Texas Election Code § 31.001(a), serves as the State's Chief Election Officer.

2. Defendant Steven C. McCraw is the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety ("DPS"). DPS operates offices around the State and issues Texas driver's licenses. All references to "driver's licenses" herein refer to Texas driver's licenses issued by DPS.

3. DPS is responsible for transmitting information to SOS about eligible driver's license applicants who – during covered driver's license transactions with DPS – indicate they wish to (1) register to vote, or (2) update

320 F.Supp.3d 869

their voter registration information. This information is transmitted by DPS to SOS in the voter registration extract file.

4. Plaintiffs Jarrod Stringer, Benjamin Hernandez, and John O. Woods, III (collectively, "Plaintiffs") changed their addresses on their DPS-issued driver's licenses through online transactions on Texas.gov.

5. Plaintiffs' counsel sent the Secretary of State letters dated May 27, 2015, October 23, 2015, and November 18, 2015, describing the change of address transactions in paragraph 4, and stating their allegation that DPS's and SOS's handling of these transactions violated the National Voter Registration Act.

6. Among other requirements, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen to be eligible to renew his driver's license or change the address on his driver's license online.

7. An applicant completing an online transaction to renew his driver's license must enter his driver's license number, date of birth, the last four digits of his social security number, and the audit number on his driver's license.

8. An applicant completing an online transaction to change the address on his driver's license – or an applicant who changes the address on his driver's license when renewing it online – must enter his driver's license number, date of birth, the last four digits of his social security number, the audit number on his driver's license, his home address (street, city, state, zip code, and county) and, if different than his home address, his mailing address (street, city, state, zip code, county, and country).

9. The voter registration application on the SOS voter website is found here: https://webservices.sos.state.tx.us/vrapp/index.asp

10. Between April 2013 and February 26, 2016, Step 5 of the online renewal and change of address interface prompted the applicant to select "yes" or "no" beneath the statement "I want to register to vote. Selecting ‘yes’ does not register you to vote. A link to the [SOS] voter website (where a voter application may be downloaded or requested) will be available on your receipt page." (emphasis original)

11. The signature that appears on the license generated as a result of a customer's online driver's license renewal or change of address transaction is an image of the applicant's physical signature, electronically captured during the applicant's most recent in-person transaction in a DPS field office. (On the DL-14A and DL-43 forms this is referred to as the applicant's "electronic signature").

12. Plaintiffs did not submit a change of address that relates to a Texas driver's license in person during the change of address transactions that form the basis of Plaintiffs' claims in this lawsuit.

13. Plaintiffs did not submit a change of address that relates to a Texas driver's license by mail during the change of address transactions that form the basis of Plaintiffs' claims in this lawsuit.

14. Plaintiffs did not complete a voter registration application on the Secretary of State's website through the link provided on the receipt page at the end of the change of address transactions that form the basis of Plaintiffs' claims in this lawsuit.

320 F.Supp.3d 870

15. After receiving the letters described in Stipulation 5, Defendants offered, through Plaintiffs' attorneys, to confirm Plaintiffs' voter registration status and provide assistance in updating their voter registration if they desired.

16. Plaintiffs did not attempt to renew their Texas driver's...

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5 practice notes
  • Richardson v. Tex. Sec'y of State, Civil No. SA-19-cv-00963-OLG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 8 Septiembre 2020
    ...Registration Act's provisions that require simultaneous driver's license and voter registration applications. See Stringer v. Pablos , 320 F. Supp. 3d 862 (W.D. Tex. 2018). Because the record—at that time —did not contain "[p]laintiff-specific evidence" that any of the plaintiffs would agai......
  • Tex. Democratic Party v. Hughs, CIVIL NO. SA-20-CV-08-OG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 22 Julio 2020
    ...only reflected in statements and press releases, but is also the unequivocal position the Secretary has taken in Stringer v. Pablos , 320 F. Supp. 3d 862, 874-875 (W.D. Tex. 2018), rev'd and remanded sub nom on other grounds, Stringer v. Whitley , 942 F.3d 715 (5th Cir. 2019) ( Stringer I )......
  • Stringer v. Whitley, 18-50428
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 13 Noviembre 2019
    ...law does not afford them a remedy from this court at this time.I concur.--------Notes:1 52 U.S.C. § 20504(d).2 Stringer v. Pablos , 320 F. Supp. 3d 862 (W.D. Tex. 2018).3 Bonds v. Tandy , 457 F.3d 409, 411 (5th Cir. 2006).4 Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, ......
  • League of Women Voters of Mo. v. Ashcroft, Case No. 2:18-CV-04073-BCW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • 26 Septiembre 2018
    ..."any" means that Section 5(d) "encompass[es] all address changes without regard to where or how they occur." Id.; Stringer v. Pablos, 320 F.Supp.3d 862, 889 (W.D. Tex. 2018) ("the plain language of the NVRA indicates that it applies to all transactions").Defendants assert "any" is modified ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Richardson v. Tex. Sec'y of State, Civil No. SA-19-cv-00963-OLG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 8 Septiembre 2020
    ...Registration Act's provisions that require simultaneous driver's license and voter registration applications. See Stringer v. Pablos , 320 F. Supp. 3d 862 (W.D. Tex. 2018). Because the record—at that time —did not contain "[p]laintiff-specific evidence" that any of the plaintiffs would agai......
  • Tex. Democratic Party v. Hughs, CIVIL NO. SA-20-CV-08-OG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • 22 Julio 2020
    ...only reflected in statements and press releases, but is also the unequivocal position the Secretary has taken in Stringer v. Pablos , 320 F. Supp. 3d 862, 874-875 (W.D. Tex. 2018), rev'd and remanded sub nom on other grounds, Stringer v. Whitley , 942 F.3d 715 (5th Cir. 2019) ( Stringer I )......
  • Stringer v. Whitley, 18-50428
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 13 Noviembre 2019
    ...law does not afford them a remedy from this court at this time.I concur.--------Notes:1 52 U.S.C. § 20504(d).2 Stringer v. Pablos , 320 F. Supp. 3d 862 (W.D. Tex. 2018).3 Bonds v. Tandy , 457 F.3d 409, 411 (5th Cir. 2006).4 Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife , 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, ......
  • League of Women Voters of Mo. v. Ashcroft, Case No. 2:18-CV-04073-BCW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • 26 Septiembre 2018
    ..."any" means that Section 5(d) "encompass[es] all address changes without regard to where or how they occur." Id.; Stringer v. Pablos, 320 F.Supp.3d 862, 889 (W.D. Tex. 2018) ("the plain language of the NVRA indicates that it applies to all transactions").Defendants assert "any" is modified ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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