WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 2, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas allowed claims brought by four sets of plaintiffs in a consolidated lawsuit challenging multiple provisions of Texas’ omnibus voter suppression law, Senate Bill 1, to move forward. The lawsuits that make up the consolidated case were filed by various voting and civil rights groups, as well as by individual voters, against many Texas government officials including the governor, attorney general, secretary of state and others. The plaintiffs challenge numerous provisions of S.B. 1 including: a restriction on providing assistance to voters who need help completing or returning their ballots, the empowerment of partisan poll watchers, a ban on 24-hour and drive-thru voting, the criminalization of many voter outreach efforts, a ballot collection ban, mail-in ballot signature matching rules, new methods to cancel voter registrations and more.
The defendants filed motions to dismiss multiple sets of plaintiffs’ claims against S.B. 1, each of which was granted in part and denied in part in four orders that were issued yesterday. Specifically, the court dismissed all claims brought against a provision of S.B. 1 that prohibits election officials from distributing unsolicited mail-in ballot applications and criminalizes activities undertaken by third parties involving paid ballot collection or the distribution of absentee ballot applications, meaning that these provisions will remain in effect. Additionally, since a provision restricting voter assistance was already permanently blocked last month for violating the Voting Rights Act in a separate lawsuit, the court declared all claims against this provision raised in this consolidated lawsuit as moot. All other claims in the case will proceed against some combination of the defendants, largely depending on who is responsible for enforcing the challenged provision. For instance, regarding a section of S.B. 1 that requires the Texas secretary of state to “report suspected election law offenses to the Attorney General,” the court held that the attorney general does not actually enforce this provision (only the secretary does) so the claims against the attorney general were dismissed. As it stands, numerous other claims against S.B. 1’s far-reaching voter suppression scheme will proceed in the case.