The Justice Department is saying Texas for the newly introduced voting restrictions. The federal government argued that the new voting law passed by Republicans will disenfranchise eligible voters as well as violate federal voting rights law.
The Lawsuit Complaints
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday in federal court in San Antonio, challenges the law known as SB1 passed earlier this year. It was signed by the Texas Republican Government to improve and overhaul the election procedure in the state. However, it imposed new obstacles for mail-in ballots and empowered the devoted partisan poll watchers. Along with bans on drive-thru and 24-hour voting, it limits the provision if required assistance to certain voters like people with physical challenges and disabilities.
The Justice Department lawsuit said this law restricts voters’ rights illegally by requiring rejection of mail ballots “for immaterial errors and omissions”. “Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” Mr. Garland said in a statement Thursday. “The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”
The Justice Department complaint alleges that this law adversely affects the rights of voters with limited English proficiency (cannot read out of paper), military members posted away from home, and overseas voters.
“The challenged provisions will disenfranchise eligible Texas citizens who seek to exercise their right to vote, including voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home, and American citizens residing outside of the country,” the complaint says.
The Justice Department is demanding a judge to stop the state from imposing these provisions of the law. “Before SB 1, the State of Texas already imposed some of the strictest limitations in the nation on the right of certain citizens to voting assistance. SB 1 further, and impermissibly, restricts the core right to meaningful assistance in the voting booth,” the Justice Department said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland had given an early warning about the scrutiny of new state election law by the Justice Department. He also promised to deploy twice as much of the staff for enforcement of the federal voting rights.
The new Texas voting law included the following changes:
- 24-hour voting is banned. The counties offer voting from 6 am to 10 pm.
- The law bans drive-thru voting. A year ago this convenient drive-thru voting enabled the state to safely conduct the elections during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The individuals voting via mail are now required to provide their driver’s license number or the last 4 digits of their social security number twice
“Conditioning the right to cast a mail ballot on a voter’s ability to recall and recite the identification number provided on an application for voter registration months or years before will curtail fundamental voting rights without advancing any legitimate state interest,” the lawsuit said.
- It bans the officials from mailing unsolicited ballot applications.
- The partisan poll watchers are allowed “free movement” except for watching a voter cast their ballot at a voting station. They cannot be denied.
- Anyone assisting the differently-abled or challenged voters, other than the caregivers, will be required to fill out a document mentioning their details and relationship with the voter.
- The Texas Secretary of State’s office will monitor monthly to ensure no one who said they weren’t a citizen while obtaining or renewing a driver’s license or ID card, are on the voter’s poll.
Although the laws are being perceived as barriers in the line of casting votes, introducing many restrictions, and tightening the voting rules, it also includes provisions to make voting easier. Like allowing correcting minor mistakes on their mail ballot; for instance, a missing signature.
On Thursday afternoon, Abbott responded to a lawsuit in a tweet, saying “Bring it. The Texas election integrity law is legal. It INCREASES hours to vote. It does restrict illegal mail ballot voting. Only those who qualify can vote by mail. It also makes ballot harvesting a felony. In Texas, it is easier to vote but harder to cheat.”
Also, it is important to mention that this is now the second time that the Biden Justice Department has sued a state over voting rights, the first being the lawsuit against the state of Georgia.