Republican Backed Voter Suppression Law Blocked By Judge In Texas

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This week, a federal judge “issued a permanent injunction blocking Texas’s “wet signature” law, House Bill 3107, which limited online voter registration opportunities,” the voting rights organization Democracy Docket reported. That injunction was handed down in the context of litigation brought by Vote.org challenging the law.

The law established that certain voter registration applications, submitted through means such as a smartphone app or a fax machine, weren’t enough: residents using those means for voter registration also needed to turn in copies of their applications with their original signatures on paper. These requirements don’t do anything to substantially help ensure the security of the electoral process. It’s just another essentially pointless hurdle for voters to get over before they can exercise the rights they were always supposed to possess. Vote.org argued the law was in violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The judge handling Vote.org’s challenge concluded the rule that “a copy of the original registration application containing the voter’s original signature must be submitted by personal delivery or mail” in certain circumstances — despite another copy of the application going to authorities — puts up an essentially pointless hurdle for prospective voters, and that hurdle “is not material to determin[ing] whether a registrant is qualified to vote.” “The judge denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, rejecting claims that the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud and serve state interests,” Democracy Docket summarizes. The federal judge’s decision has been appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org, commented as follows after the initial ruling: “Today is a hopeful day for democracy. Texas’ wet signature law prevented eligible voters from registering to vote, disproportionately targeting underrepresented groups — especially people of color, low-income voters, and young people — across the Lone Star State. This law had nothing to do with determining whether someone trying to register was qualified and created an undue burden on voters, mirroring discriminatory voter laws that were tailor-made to prevent people of color from accessing the vote for more than a century after the ratification of the 15th Amendment. Our democracy only succeeds if we can all take part in its care. With today’s victory in Texas, we are one step closer to ensuring that our democracy is for and by the people. We are so grateful to Marc Elias and the Elias Law Group for representing us in this case and we look forward to continuing our partnership together into the future.”

Vote.org’s lawsuit also alleged the so-called wet signature law “targets voting advocacy groups such as Vote.org,” as explained by Democracy Docket. In another recent win for voters, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to put a lower level court order directing the creation of a new Congressional map for Louisiana on hold as the appeals process plays out, as reported here. That means the process of creating that new map will continue. The original map, put together following the 2020 census, was challenged because of the low level of representation for Black voters.