Texas SOS pushes back against widespread disinformation about voter registration

(The Center Square) – The Secretary of State and a voter registration expert in Texas have refuted widespread disinformation spread by YouTubers and anonymous social media accounts this week.

An anonymous account on X, formerly known as Twitter, claimed, “the number of voters registering without a photo ID is skyrocketing in three key swing states: Arizona, Texas and Pennsylvania.” It also claimed that since January 2024, over 1.2 million people registered to vote in Texas without photo IDs.

Individuals unaffiliated with any organization posted videos from what appears to be their bedrooms or their front porches on TikTok, X and other social media channels claiming over 227,000, people registered to vote in Texas without an ID. One claimed, “Breaking News: you can both register to vote and vote in Texas without an ID” and that 277,000 new voters registered without an ID in Texas in one week.

Responding to the misinformation, Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson issued a statement, saying, “It is totally inaccurate that 1.2 million voters have registered to vote in Texas without a photo ID this year. The truth is our voter rolls have increased by 57,711 voters since the beginning of 2024. This is less than the number of people registered in the same timeframe in 2022 (about 65,000) and in 2020 (about 104,000).”

She is referring to a net increase from January to March prior to the primary election held on March 5.

“When Texans register to vote, they must provide a driver license number or a Social Security number. When an individual registers to vote with just a SSN, the state verifies that the SSN is authentic,” she added.

Among other information, the SOS online voter registration application requires an individual to state that they are a U.S. citizen, confirm they are 18 years old, provide their Texas driver’s license number or Texas personal ID, the last four numbers of their Social Security number, their residential address, and agree to a perjury statement. The statement says giving false information to procure a voter registration is perjury and a crime under state and federal law, which can result in a penalty of one year in jail or a fine of up to $4,000, or both.

The form requires affirmation of citizenship, county residency, that the applicant hasn’t been convicted of a felony and hasn’t been determined by a court to be mentally incapacitated.

The Texas election code, established by the Texas legislature, stipulates that seven forms of photo ID are acceptable and must be presented when voting in person.

“While federal law allows individuals to register to vote without a photo ID, Texans must actually show proof of ID to vote,” Nelson said. She also explains that the 1.2 million total from the Social Security Administration’s website relates to the number of times states ask to verify an individual’s social security number.

Derek Ryan, a political consultant with Austin-based Ryan Data Research, who maintains voter registration rolls, also pushed back on the claims. He criticized those repeating “this VERY fake narrative” … “as a scare tactic” … “to undermine our electoral process. … You aren’t helping actual election integrity efforts.”

The claim that 227,000 people registered to vote without an ID in one week was “false,” he said, and posted official SOS data showing the number who registered to vote in February and March totaled 234,552.

He told The Center Square, “It’s worth noting that the file decreases because of people who have been removed from the rolls because they have moved out of state, died, or been sent to prison.”

Data can also be misinterpreted because it may represent net additions or subtractions, only new registrations, or something else, he explained. For example, the Social Security Administration data doesn’t represent people who registered to vote without an ID or are new registrants.

“The numbers are the times their office [SOS] has attempted to verify that a [Social Security number] on their files is accurate/valid and that the person is still alive. In other words, instead of potential fraud, it’s actually the exact opposite. It’s cleaning up of the rolls,” he said.

He also noted that Nelson’s total “doesn’t include people who have registered to vote since the March Primary.”

Her net total includes “people who moved from one county to another and registered to vote in a new county who were already counted but are still technically new registrants.

“While there is a net increase of 57,711, there are actually more new registrants who replaced people who dropped off the rolls.”

Ryan told The Center Square “the disinformation is a huge concern” because Americans in both parties are repeatedly questioning election results. “Each time someone puts out information that is wrong, it builds more and more distrust in our electoral system,” he said.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, the total number of registered voters in Texas was over 17.9 million in November 2023.

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