Voting in Texas has never been easy.
However, on August 31, 2021, 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, 2021, the Brennan Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a federal lawsuit in 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 (VRA) because it limits voters’ ability to choose their assistors and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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 VRA 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 and is currently set for trial starting in July 2023: OCA-Greater Houston v. Esparza, Houston Area Urban League v. Abbott, LULAC Texas v. Esparza, Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott, and United States v. Texas.
On December 1, 2021, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that no longer names Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria as a plaintiff because, on December 10, 2021, 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. Paxton, click here.
On January 22, 2022, following a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision that held the state’s attorney general lacks constitutional authority to unilaterally prosecute criminal offenses created by the election code, plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint adding the district attorneys of Dallas, El Paso, and Travis counties as defendants.
On June 8, after a Fifth Circuit ruling allowed national and local Republican Party committees to intervene as defendants in the consolidated cases, the district court issued an amended scheduling order, moving the trial from July 5, 2022, to July 17, 2023, to allow for additional discovery.
Ruling on Motion to Dismiss
On August 2, the district court denied almost entirely the state defendants’ motion to dismiss our second amended complaint, allowing most claims in the case to proceed. The court found that our plaintiffs have standing to sue and have stated claims for relief under Sections 2 and 208 of the VRA, Title II of the ADA, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The court also ruled that certain claims against S.B. 1’s restrictive voter assistor oath are moot because that provision was struck down in a separate, unrelated case. On August 30, the state defendants appealed that ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Complaint (September 3, 2021)
- Amended Complaint (December 1, 2021)
- Second Amended Complaint (January 22, 2022)
- Order Denying State Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the USA’s Amended Complaint (May 24, 2022)
- Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part State Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the LULAC Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (July 12, 2022)
- Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part State Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the HAUL and Mi Familia Vota Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (August 2, 2022)
- Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part State Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the OCA Greater Houston Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (August 2, 2022)
- Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part State Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the LUPE Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (August 2, 2022)
Related Blogs and Reports
- Sean Morales-Doyle, We’re Suing Texas Over Its New Voter Suppression Law, September 3, 2021
- Pastor Danielle Ayers, Faith Compels Us to Act Against Voter Suppression, October 25, 2021
Related Press Releases