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Justice Dept. Sues Texas Over Voting Restrictions

November 5, 2021 by Dan McCue
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott meets with law enforcement officers in Midlands, Texas. (Photo via Twitter)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued the state of Texas on Thursday, arguing a new voting law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in September disenfranchises the old, disabled and citizens who do not speak English.

The complaint, which was filed in the federal court in San Antonio, further asserts the law violates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act by limiting the help that poll workers can provide to voters. 

It goes on to claim the law, Senate Bill 1, violates Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act because it requires mail-in ballots to be thrown out if they are marred by simple paperwork errors such as failing to include a voter’s current driver’s license number or part of a Social Security number.

“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a written statement announcing the legal action. 

“The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society,” he said.

But Gov. Abbott was unbowed Thursday evening, writing on Twitter “Bring it. The Texas election integrity law is legal.”

He went on to claim the law makes it easier to vote in Texas, “but harder to cheat.”

“It does restrict illegal mail ballot voting. Only those who qualify can vote by mail” and “It also makes ballot harvesting a felony” but, he said it also increases the hours for in-person voting.

The law also includes measures barring election officials from sending voters unsolicited absentee ballot applications and from promoting the use of mail voting. It also greatly expands the authority of partisan poll watchers.

Since the November 2020 presidential election, Republicans in 19 states have passed at least 33 laws that critics charge place new, unwarranted restrictions on the voting process. 

In June Garland said the Justice Department would prioritize the issue and double its enforcement staff to push back at these laws.

“Laws that impair eligible citizens’ access to the ballot box have no place in our democracy,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “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.”

In addition to filing its own lawsuit against the law on Thursday, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest in a federal lawsuit against the Texas voting law that was brought by Latino organizations. 

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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