WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Texas over its new voter suppression law, Senate Bill 1. The law is already being challenged in federal and state court. Among other provisions, S.B. 1 adds documentation requirements in order to vote by mail, limits polling hours, bans drive-thru and overnight early voting, empowers partisan poll watchers and more. Passing the law was a priority for Lone Star Republicans during their last legislative cycle, despite the fact that Texas is a notoriously difficult state to vote in, as the complaint points out.
The DOJ challenges two provisions of S.B. 1: new voter assistance requirements and strict rules that require the rejection of mail-in ballot applications and ballots for “immaterial errors or omissions.” The complaint argues that the first provision limits how eligible voters can receive assistance when casting their vote and therefore makes it harder for Texans to receive federally-protected assistance while voting. Given that Texas has a substantial number of voters who do not speak English as their first language or who have disabilities, the DOJ asserts that S.B. 1 violates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, which “guarantees that voters who require assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may receive assistance by a person of the voter’s choice.” Second, the DOJ argues that strict new requirements for accepting mail-in ballot materials violates the Civil Rights Act by “requiring rejection of mail ballot materials—thereby denying the right to vote—because of errors or omissions not material in determining whether such individuals are qualified to vote.” The DOJ asks the court to block the enforcement of the two challenged provisions.