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Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against New Texas Voting Laws

— November 5, 2021

Texas’s voting laws may violate several different federal statutes.

The Biden administration has filed a federal lawsuit against Texas, alleging that the state’s new voting laws violate civil rights statutes.

According to The Texas Tribune, the Department of Justice’s complaint targets two specific provisions in the voting law, which deal with mail-in ballots and the provision of assistance to voters, respectively.

The Biden administration, for instance, believes the statute—enacted as Senate Bill 1–may disenfranchise disabled people, the elderly, and anyone who does not speak English proficiently.

While Democrats have attacked the legislation as a means to suppress voter turn-out, the Justice Department says that Texas is violating the federal Voting Rights Act, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under S.B. 1, “strict limits will be placed on how much assistance can be given to voters who, because of disabilities or limited English,” may need help figuring out how to cast a ballot. Another of the statute’s provisions constrains how many people can vote by mail, and introduces new procedures to verify their identity.

Former Texas Attorney General and current Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Image via Flickr/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

However, the Justice Department contends these measures “will curtail fundamental voting rights without advancing any legitimate state interest.”

“These vulnerable voters already confront barriers to the ballot box, and SB 1 will exacerbate the challenges they face in exercising their fundamental right to vote,” the lawsuit asserts, observing that S.B. 1 has the potential to impact now only Democrat-inclined voters, but expatriates and members of the United States military, too.

The Tribune notes that Texas has long allowed assistance to voters who cannot navigate the voting process on their own, so long as the persons providing assistance do not attempt to influence the actual vote.

But under S.B. 1, anyone who attempts to help a disabled person, elderly person, or person who does not speak English proficiently could face criminal prosecution.

In order to render assistance in compliance with the new legislation, helpers will have to fill out and submit a declaration disclosing their relationship to the voter, and recite an “expanded oath” that they did not “pressure or coerce” the voter.

The same “expanded oath” prevents anyone providing assistance from actually providing assistance—they are limited to “reading the ballot to the voter, directing the voter to read the ballot, marking the voter’s ballot, or directing the voter to mark the ballot.”

They may not answer any procedural questions, or help in any other meaningful way.

According to the Justice Department, the limits will have an outsized impact on persons with disabilities.

“There is a history of discrimination against voters with disabilities in Texas,” the lawsuit alleges, noting that more than one-quarter of all Texans have a disability which affects their eyesight, cognition, or mobility.

S.B. 1 will also require anyone mailing in a ballot to provide their driver’s license or Social Security number when applying for an absentee ballot, and to provide the same digits against when returning it.

Despite the challenge, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott—who has filed numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration—said that his state is happy to spend taxpayer money fighting the litigation.

“Bring it,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “In Texas it is easier to vote but harder to cheat.”


DoJ sues Texas over new voting law, saying restrictions violate civil rights

Justice Department sues Texas over new voting law, targeting restrictions on mail-in ballots and voter assistance

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