DOJ sues Texas for violating Voting Rights Act

by | Nov 4, 2021 | Courts, News

The Biden administration’s Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Texas arguing that the state violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 when it passed Senate Bill 1, a sweeping piece of legislation that makes it more difficult to access the ballot box.

The lawsuit largely focuses on provisions of SB 1 that add additional obstacles to voting by mail or seeking assistance while voting in-person, provisions federal lawyers argue disenfranchise eligible Texas citizens, especially voters with limited English proficiency, those with disabilities, or the elderly. 

“SB 1 further, and impermissibly, restricts the core right to meaningful assistance in the voting booth,” the lawsuit reads. “Prohibiting assistors from answering voters’ questions, responding to requests to clarify ballot translations, and confirming that voters with visual impairments have marked a ballot as intended will curtail fundamental voting rights without advancing any legitimate state interest.”

Republicans passed the legislation in August after Democrats broke quorum to kill the bill during the regular session. 

The DOJ is citing multiple violations of the Voting Rights Act, including a section that ensures voters can still cast their vote despite errors or omissions in paperwork that is not material in determining whether they can vote or not, as well as another section that allows voters to receive assistance by a person of the voter’s choice. 

“SB 1 will disenfranchise some eligible mail voters based on paperwork errors or omissions immaterial to their qualifications to vote,” the lawsuit continues. “Conditioning the right to cast a mail ballot on a voter’s ability to recall and recite the identification number provided on an application for voter registration months or years before will curtail fundamental voting rights without advancing any legitimate state interest.”

In response to the lawsuit, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted, “I will see you in court, Biden!”

A similar lawsuit was filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project in September.  

This is the second time the Department of Justice has acted against laws passed by the Texas Legislature this year; the Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments over another federal lawsuit against Senate Bill 8, Texas’ six-week abortion ban. 

Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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