AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The League of Women Voters in Amarillo (LWV) gave an update on their efforts to register community members around the High Plains to vote in time for the March 1 primaries. With only days left until that deadline, Jan. 31, the LWV also offered reminders about recently changed guidelines and the registration process.

This comes after the League of Women Voters of Texas, a broader-scale level of the organization, issued a letter on Jan. 21 to Texas Secretary of State John Scott regarding what was described as a “response to his office’s practice of severely limiting voter registration forms provided to voter registration organizations in the state — in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.” The organization said it would sue if the state did not issue more forms as requested.

LWV Amarillo member Sonya Letson spoke with about the situation and said that the local chapter of the organization has also experienced a shortage of voter registration applications, or “cards” in the last month.

“We did have trouble earlier in the month, when we asked for a large amount of applications — which we generally call cards, because they are on cardstock.  The secretary of state initially told us that because of supply problems we should print our own off their website. When our Voter Services director pressed the issue, telling them we were scheduled to be in all the high schools, they said OK and sent us some they said were for high school ONLY,” wrote Letson, “Nobody here could see any difference in the cards they sent and regular cards.”

The lack of difference in the cards could be significant to note. During the 2021 Texas State Legislative session, which saw the adoption of multiple new laws regarding voting, the penalty for illegal voter registration was increased from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor. Older cards now say that the penalty for illegal voter registration could be up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of as much as $2,000. Meanwhile, online information and newer forms would give the more accurate information – that the penalty could now be up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.

Because that penalty is noted on the voter registration applications, the change in the law meant that applications would need to be reprinted to reflect the correct information. However, the LWV receiving old forms could mean that some people registering to vote are misinformed, or those older forms could risk opening a path for the applications to be rejected on the grounds of inaccuracy.

However, even with the shipment of forms in whichever version of the application, Letson said that wasn’t the end of the local LWV’s trouble.

“I later emailed to ask for more cards and they said no, we already sent you some,” wrote Letson further, “And then a funny thing happened… the story about them denying cards to the League of Women Voters in Houston apparently made the Stephen Colbert show. Our VS director came home last Saturday to find a package of about 700 cards in her mailbox. And a day or two later I too had a package of about 300. Kind of a funny story. I guess they were embarrassed.”

Despite the difficulties, Letson said the LWV in Amarillo has registered over 340 high school seniors during their campaign so far, with three local high schools left to visit, and around 20 non-students.

The LWV scheduled multiple voter registration events for the end of the week, leading up to the Jan. 31 deadline:

  • Friday, Jan. 28
    • 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. || Carniceria La Popular on SE 3rd
      • A translator will be present to assist those whose primary language is in Spanish.
  • Saturday, Jan. 29
    • 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. || United Supermarket at 1501 Amarillo Blvd East
    • Noon – 4 p.m. || Amigo’s on I-40 East

The voter registration application must be filled out on paper and signed in ink. Aside from local voter registration events such as those hosted by the LWV, those who wish to register can print out a form from the Secretary of State’s website and mail it in, or go to register in person at their local county elections office. If mailed, the application must be postmarked by Jan. 31 in order for the registration to be complete in time for the March 1 election.

Those who plan to vote or register to vote through the mail should also review the newly set guidelines regarding “residence” as it is noted in the application process. For example, those who wish to register to vote can no longer do so using a P.O. box as their listed address.

Although nearly 40 states across the country have adopted it, Letson also reminded that Texas does not have online voter registration – except for those who are updating their driver’s license online.

More information on how to register to vote on the High Plains can be found here, as well as important dates and locations for the upcoming elections as updated by Your Local Election HQ.