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LUPE v. Abbott

The Brennan Center and co-counsel filed suit in federal court challenging Texas’s new omnibus voter suppression law on behalf of several community and faith-based groups and an election judge.

Last Updated: January 25, 2022
Published: September 3, 2021

Voting in Texas has never been easy. Even before the Texas Legis­lature acted this year, Texas was among the states that make it hard­est for voters to register and vote, with some of the most oner­ous voting restric­tions in the coun­try.

But on August 31, the Texas legis­lature made it even harder to vote by passing S.B. 1, an omni­bus voter suppres­sion bill. Among other things, S.B. 1 makes it more diffi­cult for voters who have limited English profi­ciency, disab­il­it­ies, and/or less formal educa­tion to receive assist­ance with voting at the polling place, curb­side, or by mail. S.B. 1 also takes aim at community and faith-based groups by crim­in­al­iz­ing non-partisan voter turnout activ­it­ies as “vote harvest­ing” and severely restricts elec­tion offi­cials by creat­ing a new state jail felony for provid­ing mail ballot applic­a­tions to eligible voters who do not request them. Addi­tion­ally, S.B. 1 makes it more diffi­cult for poll work­ers to preserve order and prevent viol­ence at the polls by limit­ing their author­ity over partisan poll watch­ers. Finally, it repres­ents a back­lash against pro-voter innov­a­tions in Harris County by banning drive-thru and 24-hour voting.

On Septem­ber 3, the Bren­nan Center and the Mexican Amer­ican Legal Defense and Educa­tional Fund filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the West­ern District of Texas, chal­len­ging S.B. 1 under the U.S. Consti­tu­tion and other federal law on behalf of Friend­ship-West Baptist Church, the Anti-Defam­a­tion League, Texas Impact, La Unión Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), South­w­est Voter Regis­tra­tion Educa­tion Project, William C. Velasquez Insti­tute, Texas Hispan­ics Organ­ized for Polit­ical Educa­tion, Mexican Amer­ican Bar Asso­ci­ation of Texas, Jolt Action, Harris County Elec­tions Admin­is­trator Isabel Longoria, and James Lewin. Longoria and her claims have since been removed from the case and filed in a separ­ate lawsuit, as described below.

Plaintiffs assert that S.B. 1 viol­ates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act because it limits voters’ abil­ity to choose their assist­ors and the Amer­ic­ans with Disab­il­it­ies Act because it denies equal access to the fran­chise for voters who have disab­il­it­ies. Plaintiffs also claim that S.B. 1 viol­ates the First and Four­teenth Amend­ments because S.B. 1's restric­tions on “vote harvest­ing” crim­in­al­ize protec­ted speech and are overly broad and uncon­sti­tu­tion­ally vague. Plaintiffs also allege that S.B. 1’s new restric­tions on poll work­ers viol­ate the Four­teenth Amend­ment because they are uncon­sti­tu­tion­ally vague. Plaintiffs further allege that S.B. 1 creates an undue burden on the right to vote in viol­a­tion of the First and Four­teenth Amend­ments. Finally, plaintiffs assert that S.B. 1 viol­ates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Four­teenth and Fifteenth Amend­ments because it was enacted to inten­tion­ally discrim­in­ate against minor­ity voters.

Plaintiffs Friend­ship-West Baptist Church, the Anti-Defam­a­tion League, Texas Impact, and Jim Lewin are repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Our lawsuit has been consol­id­ated with five others: OCA-Greater Hous­ton v. EsparzaHous­ton Justice v. AbbottLULAC Texas v. EsparzaMi Familia Vota v. Abbott, and United States v. Texas.

On Decem­ber 1, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that no longer names Harris County Elec­tions Admin­is­trator Isabel Longoria as a plaintiff because, on Decem­ber 10, the Bren­nan Center and the Harris County Attor­ney’s Office filed a separ­ate lawsuit on her behalf chal­len­ging S.B. 1’s “anti-soli­cit­a­tion” provi­sion, which makes it a crime for public offi­cials and elec­tion offi­cials to soli­cit mail ballot applic­a­tions from voters who are eligible or may be eligible to vote by mail. For more inform­a­tion about that lawsuit, Longoria v. Paxtonclick here.

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