Federal Judge Strikes Down Portions of Texas Voter Suppression Law S.B. 1

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Aug. 17, a federal judge struck down portions of Texas’ 2021 omnibus voter suppression law, Senate Bill 1, for violating the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act. The Materiality Provision protects against disenfranchisement on the basis of trivial errors that are unrelated to a voter’s eligibility. 

Today’s order invalidates provisions of S.B. 1 that required clerks to reject mail-in ballot applications and completed mail-in ballots if they did not include a voter identification number — either a voter’s driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number — that matched the identification number used on an individual’s original voter registration application. 

In one instance reported by the Texas Tribune, an elderly voter’s mail-in ballot was rejected in Texas’ March 2022 primary election after he could not recall which voter identification number he used when registering to vote nearly three decades ago. Despite listing the last four digits of his Social Security number accurately on his mail-in ballot application, election officials rejected it since it did not match the number listed in his voter registration file. 

Today’s resounding voter victory originates from a consolidated federal lawsuit filed in 2021 that challenges multiple provisions S.B. 1 for violating the U.S. Constitution and federal law. In the order, Judge Xavier Rodriguez of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas granted requests by the U.S. Department of Justice and OCA-Greater Houston seeking to nullify S.B.1’s identification number matching requirements under the Materiality Provision. Numerous other claims against S.B. 1 brought by various plaintiff groups in the consolidated lawsuit are set to go to trial starting Sept. 11. 

According to reporting from the Associated Press, the now-struck down provisions of S.B. 1 contributed to the rejection of nearly 23,000 mail-in ballots in Texas’ 2022 primary election. Mail-in ballots cast by voters of color were rejected at disproportionately high rates and a significant portion of rejected mail-in ballots were cast in Houston, home to the heavily Democratic and diverse Harris County. As the staggering rates of mail-in ballot rejections demonstrate, the pernicious effects of S.B. 1’s anti-voting provisions have had tangible and far-reaching consequences for Texas voters.

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.