Voting in Texas has never been easy. Even before the Texas Legislature passed S.B. 1, 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 election 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. We represent 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.
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 unconstitutionally vague. Plaintiffs also allege that S.B. 1’s new restrictions on election officials 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, Isabel Longoria, and Jim Lewin are represented by the Brennan Center and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Isabel Longoria is also represented by the Harris County Attorney's Office.
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- Sean Morales-Doyle, We're Suing Texas Over Its New Voter Suppression Law, September 3, 2021
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