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LUPE v. State of Texas

The Brennan Center and co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit challenging an omnibus voter suppression law enacted in Texas in 2021, Senate Bill 1. We represent voters, election administrators, community groups, civil rights and voting organizations, and faith-based groups. Trial took place from September 11, 2023, through October 20, 2023, and closing arguments were held on February 13, 2024.

Last Updated: January 26, 2024
Published: September 3, 2021

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.

Our Claims

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, FIEL Houston, Jolt Action, Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria, and James Lewin. (Longoria and her claims were subsequently removed from the case and filed in a separate lawsuit, Longoria v. Paxton.)

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, 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 Area Urban League v. AbbottLULAC Texas v. EsparzaMi Familia Vota v. Abbott, and United States v. Texas.

On August 2, 2022, the district court denied almost entirely the state defendants’ motion to dismiss our second amended complaint, allowing most claims in the case to proceed. On August 30, 2022, the state defendants appealed the district court’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal has been fully briefed as of March 20, 2023, and the parties are awaiting the Fifth Circuit’s decision.

On August 17, 2023, the district court granted in part a motion for summary judgment on some other plaintiffs’ claims that S.B. 1’s ID requirements for mail ballot applications and mail ballot envelopes violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s materiality provision, which prohibits states from “deny[ing] the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission…if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified.” The court’s ruling fully resolved the United States’ claims. On December 1, 2023, the state defendants appealed the district court’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit. That appeal, as well as other appeals related to discovery and the scope of legislative privilege, are still pending before the Fifth Circuit.

A bench trial on most of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims began on September 11, 2023, and ended on October 20, 2023. On January 19, 2024, the parties filed their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Closing arguments are scheduled for February 13, 2024. There will be a second phase of trial on plaintiffs’ intentional discrimination claims after related appeals are resolved.


Western District of Texas

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (State Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss) 

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (Legislative Privilege)

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