AUSTIN, Texas -- Julia Shomenta, a senior at the University of Texas at Dallas, wants to help fellow students register to vote, but it's not easy.
To do that, she must be deputized twice, attend redundant training and spend hours delivering the registration slips in person to the right officials, thanks to new state laws.
"Adding extra hurdles right before an election -- I don't know why they'd do it. I wouldn't say that it's intended to disenfranchise voters, but it can have that effect," Shomenta said.
Meanwhile, Austin lawyer James Boyle received a "Dear Voter" letter at his home. In essence, election officials attempting to clean the voter rolls asked him if he was dead.
"It is a little shocking," he said. But even more disturbing, Boyle said, was that if he'd missed the letter, he would have found himself at the polls on Nov. 6 unable to vote.
The new laws enacted last year to govern registration and voter rolls and require photo ID have spawned numerous lawsuits. But they've also vaulted Texas to the forefront of a Republican-led wave of election changes. Few, if any states, have been as aggressive on as many fronts -- changing how people register, how they vote and how they stay on the rolls -- as Texas was in passing these laws last year.
State Republicans have touted the laws as a reasonable package of safeguards to assure integrity in the voting booth. Democrats and advocates for the poor see it another way: voter suppression -- a calculated gambit to make it harder for certain Democratic constituencies to vote.
"Texas is not the only state that has all of these, but it is notable because of its size," said Myrna Perez of New York University law school's Brennan Center for Justice.
Virtually all such election proposals have been advanced by Republican-dominated legislatures, she said.
A federal court struck down Texas' voter ID bill, which mandated that certain kinds of official photo IDs be shown to cast a ballot, saying it contained "strict, unforgiving burdens" that would disproportionately affect minorities.
The state is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Perez pointed out that in its law, Texas allowed a concealed weapons permit to be an acceptable photo ID but not a university student ID. Such changes, along with the clampdown on voter registration drives that often target low-income neighborhoods, raise eyebrows.
"The concern is that politicians are manipulating the rules so that they can cherry-pick their electorate," Perez said.
Texas Republican Party chairman Steve Munisteri said Texas is trying to enforce the rules, not manipulate them. The only voters the GOP wants to suppress, he said, are those who are ineligible.
"Whether they're under 18, don't live where they say they do, if they're not a citizen, or they're dead, they should not vote. We are absolutely trying to suppress illegal votes," Munisteri said. "We are 100 percent in favor of voter suppression for dead people."
Munisteri said ballot abuse is not a myth. In 1976, when he was first volunteering in politics, Ron Paul lost his first congressional election by fewer than 300 votes, and Munisteri said he found one ballot after another cast from addresses that were empty lots and abandoned houses.
"It was shocking," he said.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has claimed in numerous speeches that a check of voter rolls showed that 239 ballots were cast under the names of dead people in Texas elections.
A PolitiFact check found that claim to be "mostly false," but it did show that at least four people known to be dead were listed as having voted in the state's primaries in May.