Justice Department Sues Texas Over New Voting Restrictions Law

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The Department of Justice sued the authorities of Texas connected Thursday, alleging that the bundle of voting restrictions Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law successful September violates national law.

The Texas instrumentality violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by restricting the quality of voters with disabilities to person definite types of assistance astatine the polls, the section said. The authorities instrumentality besides violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring Texas predetermination officials to cull absentee ballots based connected insignificant paperwork errors that are “immaterial” to determining whether a elector is eligible to formed specified a ballot.

Both provisions would unlawfully disenfranchise voters successful what is already 1 of the nation’s astir restrictive states, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

“Our ideology depends connected the close of eligible voters to formed a ballot and to person that ballot counted,” Garland said successful a quality release announcing the lawsuit. “The Justice Department volition proceed to usage each the authorities astatine its disposal to support this cardinal pillar of our society.”

Texas’ Republican-majority legislature passed the voting restrictions successful precocious August aft months of wrangling and implicit absorption from Democratic legislators, voting rights groups and disablement advocates. The law, which bans drive-thru voting entree and imposes caller restrictions connected absentee ballots, made Texas 1 of 19 states that person passed astatine slightest 33 laws restricting voting rights this year.

The Justice Department took peculiar contented with the law’s provisions limiting the types of assistance voters tin person erstwhile filling retired and returning ballots, which opponents of the authorities warned would marque it harder for Texans with disabilities to vote.

Those provisions, Garland and the Justice Department argued, would besides person a disproportionate effect connected aged voters and Texans with constricted English proficiency ― 2 groups that, similar radical with disabilities, already often look important barriers to voting.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Texas is wrongfully disenfranchising galore  of its voters.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Texas is wrongfully disenfranchising galore of its voters.

TASOS KATOPODIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“Prohibiting assistors from answering voters’ questions, responding to requests to clarify ballot translations, and confirming that voters with ocular impairments person marked a ballot arsenic intended volition curtail cardinal voting rights without advancing immoderate morganatic authorities interest,” the suit said.

The instrumentality besides implements caller restrictions connected mail-in voting, which is already heavy constricted in Texas comparative to different states. The instrumentality requires that voters supply either their driver’s licence fig oregon the past 4 digits of their Social Security fig connected some their exertion to ballot by message and connected the ballot envelope utilized to formed their vote. The fig indispensable lucifer the information successful their elector file.

That, the Justice Department argued, risks disenfranchising voters based connected insignificant paperwork errors, not connected immoderate interest related to their existent eligibility to formed ballots successful a Texas election.

“Conditioning the close to formed a message ballot connected a voter’s quality to callback and recite the recognition fig provided connected an exertion for elector registration months oregon years earlier volition curtail cardinal voting rights without advancing immoderate morganatic authorities interest,” the DOJ said successful the lawsuit.

Texas Republicans, similar GOP lawmakers successful different states, person argued that the instrumentality they enacted successful August is indispensable to forestall fraud and support the integrity of the state’s elections. But no wide fraud occurred determination during the 2020 predetermination oregon immoderate different caller contest, contrary to claims made by erstwhile President Donald Trump and galore GOP lawmakers.

The Justice Department antecedently sued the authorities of Georgia implicit a likewise restrictive voting instrumentality Republicans enacted there, and it has reached settlements with different states and cities successful voting rights lawsuits.

The Texas authorities was taxable to numerous lawsuits alleging that it was unconstitutional and violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and different national laws earlier Abbott adjacent signed it connected Sept. 7. In summation to its lawsuit, the Justice Department besides filed a connection of involvement successful 1 of those suits to asseverate that the plaintiffs had the close to writer the authorities nether the Voting Rights Act.

The Justice Department and its Civil Rights Division “are committed to protecting the cardinal close to ballot for each Americans,” said Kristen Clarke, the adjunct lawyer wide for the Civil Rights Division. “Laws that impair eligible citizens’ entree to the ballot container person nary spot successful our democracy. Texas Senate Bill 1’s restrictions connected elector assistance astatine the polls and connected which absentee ballots formed by eligible voters tin beryllium accepted by predetermination officials are unlawful and indefensible.”

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