Alleging Civil Rights Violations, DOJ Sues Texas Over Restrictive Voting Law

The United States Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Texas regarding recently-passed legislation that restricts voters from marginalized communities.

Senate Bill (SB 1) 1, a Republican-authored law, was adopted. Late in the summer, the legislature passed.After Democrats failed to block it, they fled the state to prevent a majority of its voters from voting. The law established a number new restrictions, including the prohibition of drive-through voting and the application process for persons with disabilities to have other people assist them in voting. It also established strict ID requirements for mail voting, making it easier for poll watchers, who can intimidate voters at their ballot box.

The DOJ is focusing its lawsuit on two specific provisions of the statuteIt claims that the Voting Rights Act (and the Civil Rights Act of 1964) are in violation. The Justice Department claims that the law will make voting more difficult for people with disabilities or people who don’t speak English. Additional ID requirements and restrictions on mail-in voting are also included in the law.

“The challenged provisions will disenfranchise eligible Texas citizens who seek to exercise their right to vote, including voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home, and American citizens residing outside of the country,” the lawsuit states. “These vulnerable voters already confront barriers to the ballot box, and SB 1 will exacerbate the challenges they face in exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

Gov. Greg Abbott (R.Texas), who signed the law in September, replied to the lawsuit writing “Bring it” on Twitter and alleging that the statute “is legal.” But Democratic lawmakers in Texas welcomed the lawsuit from the DOJ.

“Senate Bill 1 is a sweeping piece of legislation that creates unnecessary and deliberate barriers to voting,” read a joint statement from the Democratic chairsThe state House Democratic Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus are Texas Legislative Black Caucus and Texas Legislative Study Group.

Leading voices within the DOJ, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, said the lawsuit was necessary in order to preserve Texas voters’ rights.

“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted. The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society,” Garland said in a statement.

“Texas Senate Bill 1’s restrictions on voter assistance at the polls and on which absentee ballots cast by eligible voters can be accepted by election officials are unlawful and indefensible,” added Kristen Clarke, head of the DOJ’s civil rights division.