Federal Legal Action Announced Against TX Voter Suppression Law

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A federal lawsuit challenging a sweeping and newly passed election restrictions bill in Texas has been announced this week. Texas Republicans had been seeking to get some version of the bill passed for months, but Democrats delayed the process by leaving the state, thereby blocking the Texas state House from obtaining the quorum that was necessary to pass the bill and send it to Republican Governor Greg Abbott for his signature. Now, groups including the Brennan Center for Justice and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) say in the new lawsuit challenging the legislation that it violates provisions of the law meant to protect voters.

The interests behind the lawsuit are hoping to block the controversial bill from being enforced. The Brennan Center’s Sean Morales-Doyle commented as follows this week, referring to the bill in question:

‘By law, the citizens of Texas all have the same right to vote, regardless of race or disability. But with S.B. 1, the legislature is undermining equal access to the ballot box… The myriad restrictions in their legislation will be felt most by Latino, Black, and Asian American voters, voters with disabilities, and elderly voters.’

Despite the fact that no systematic election integrity problems were discovered in the conducting of last year’s presidential election, the Texas bill, if allowed to stand, would (among other provisions) outlaw both drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting and ban local officials from sending out mail-in ballot applications without a prior request from the voter. Last year, each of these procedures were undertaken in Harris County, which includes Houston and is home to many Democratic voters. As such, whether purposefully or not, the bill suggests an intention on the part of its GOP creators to target Democratic voters.

On a related note, Nina Perales from MALDEF said the following:

‘S.B. 1 will reduce voter participation and discriminate on the basis of race, and for those reasons it should be struck down in court… In addition to making voting more difficult for all voters, S.B. 1 is aimed directly at Latinos and Asian Americans with specific provisions that cut back on assistance to limited English-proficient voters.’

Specifically, those who brought the lawsuit say that the Texas legislation is in violation of the Constitution, the 1965 Civil Rights Act, and protections at the federal level for disabled individuals. Among other examples, a broader availability of drive-thru voting could provide opportunities for those who may struggle to enter polling places with additional opportunities to vote. Texas has curbside voting available for certain disabled individuals, but the process might not cover everyone. Meanwhile, voting rights lawyer Marc Elias has announced that another lawsuit challenging the Texas bill will be filed after Abbott signs the legislation.