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Press Release

Preliminary Injunction Blocks Part of Texas Law Censoring Election Officials and Workers on Mail Voting

The order prohibits district attorneys in three counties from prosecuting plaintiffs under the challenged law, and also prohibits the Texas attorney general and the same district attorneys from seeking civil penalties.

February 11, 2022
Contact: Rebecca Autrey, Media Contact, rebecca.autrey@nyu.edu, 202-753-5904

Order Prohib­its Attor­ney General, District Attor­neys in Three Counties from Penal­iz­ing Elec­tion Offi­cials and Public Offi­cials Who Encour­age Eligible Voters to Vote by Mail

Relief Comes in Time for Texas’s Febru­ary 18 Dead­line to Apply to Vote by Mail in March 1 Primary

Tonight a U.S. district court judge gran­ted a prelim­in­ary injunc­tion against the part of Texas’s S.B. 1 making it a crime for elec­tion offi­cials and elec­tion work­ers to encour­age Texans to apply to vote by mail. Judge Xavier Rodrig­uez of the United States District Court for the West­ern District of Texas issued the order in response to the plaintiffs’ motion in Longoria v. Paxton. It prohib­its the district attor­neys in three counties – Harris, Travis, and Willi­am­son – from prosec­ut­ing plaintiffs under the chal­lenged law. It also prohib­its the Texas attor­ney general and the same district attor­neys from seek­ing civil penal­ties. In an opin­ion accom­pa­ny­ing the order, Judge Rodrig­uez stated that this part of S.B. 1 likely viol­ates the First Amend­ment.

The follow­ing are reac­tions from the plaintiffs and their attor­neys.

Isabel Longoria, plaintiff, Harris County Elec­tion Admin­is­trator:

“The judge’s order is a huge relief. Now I can go back to doing an import­ant part of my job. The voters in Harris County deserve to know about all of their options, includ­ing voting by mail for those who are eligible, and I’m glad to be able to serve them in full once again.”

Cathy Morgan, plaintiff, volun­teer deputy regis­trar in Travis and Willi­am­son Counties:

“I decided to volun­teer as a regis­trar to help my fellow Texans register to vote. But then S.B. 1 turned part of what I do into a crime. I’m thrilled that the judge’s order lifts that burden and lets me resume my duties in full.”

Sean Morales-Doyle, Acting Director of the Voting Rights and Elec­tions Program at the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law:

“The prelim­in­ary injunc­tion gran­ted today removes the muzzle from Texas elec­tion offi­cials and work­ers. Now they can give Texans all of the inform­a­tion they need about their voting options. That’s how a demo­cracy is supposed to work.”

Chris­tian Mene­fee, County Attor­ney, Harris County, Texas:

“The judge’s order today is crit­ical for those Texans who depend on mail voting in order to cast a ballot. Demo­cracy must remain open to all eligible voters, regard­less of age or disab­il­ity.”  

Liz Ryan, Part­ner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP:

“S.B. 1 has always been a one-sided restric­tion on free speech – Texas elec­tion offi­cials and work­ers are penal­ized for encour­aging eligible voters to vote by mail while they face no penalty for discour­aging eligible voters from voting by mail. That is uncon­sti­tu­tional. Thank­fully, after today’s order, elec­tion offi­cials will be able to speak freely and encour­age people who want to vote by mail to do so.”

Back­ground

Isabel Longoria, the highest-rank­ing elec­tion offi­cial in Harris County, and Cathy Morgan, a volun­teer deputy regis­trar in Travis and Willi­am­son Counties, filed suit in Decem­ber against S.B. 1. They argued that the prohib­i­tion on encour­aging voters to apply to vote by mail viol­ates their First Amend­ment rights and prevents them from perform­ing crit­ical work duties. 

S.B. 1 – which contains multiple voting restric­tions – made it a crime for elec­tion offi­cials and other public offi­cials to “soli­cit mail ballot applic­a­tions” from voters, whether or not those voters are eligible under state law to do so.

Under Texas law voters are eligible to vote by mail in certain circum­stances, includ­ing when a voter is 65 years old or older, sick, or disabled, out of the coun­try on elec­tion day, or held in jail.

Longoria is repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the Harris County Attor­ney’s Office, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Morgan is repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center for Justice, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Docu­ments and more inform­a­tion about Longoria v. Paxton are avail­able here

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