Texas joins Republican states that make it harder to vote

Voting in Texas has never been easy. Even before the Texas Legislature passed S.B. 1, Texas was among the states that make it hardest for voters to register and vote, with some of the most onerous voting restrictions in the country.

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the new restrictive voting law, which Democrats had blocked for weeks by leaving the state to deny Republican lawmakers a quorum

By the time Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, which passed through the Republican-controlled Texas Senate and House last week, but the law already faces at least five challenges in state and federal courts, with dozens of organizations and individuals suing Texas GOP leaders and local elections officials.

At the signing ceremony, Abbott reiterated a number of lies asserting that the bill was needed to eliminate voter fraud, which is extremely rare in Texas. According to records from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, there were a total of 154 people charged for ballot fraud or illegal voting since 2004 out of what the Texas Secretary of State puts at nearly 94 million votes cast.

In addition to banning 24-hour voting and drive-through voting, SB 1 also makes it more difficult to vote by mail and adds even further burdens on disabled Texans. It also creates more protections for partisan poll watchers at voting locations.

The White House pledged Tuesday to continue battling new voting restrictions, which Republican leaders have passed in numerous states, often while citing former president Donald Trump’s false claims of mass electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Even before Abbott signed the voter suppression bill, two lawsuits were filed against the legislation. MALDEF (The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law filed a challenge in San Antonio to SB 1 on Friday.

In a statement, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation Nina Perales said the Texas law discriminates on the basis of race.

“In addition to making voting more difficult for all voters, SB1 is aimed directly at Latinos and Asian Americans with specific provisions that cut back on assistance to limited English-proficient voters,” said Perales.

“By law, the citizens of Texas all have the same right to vote, regardless of race or disability. But with S.B. 1, the legislature is undermining equal access to the ballot box,” said Sean Morales-Doyle, of the Brennan Center for Justice. “The myriad restrictions in their legislation will be felt most by Latino, Black, and Asian American voters, voters with disabilities, and elderly voters. These new impediments to voting have no legitimate purpose in keeping Texas elections fair and secure. The court must strike down this shameful legislation.”

Last week another lawsuit against SB 1 was filed on behalf of the ACLU of Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Disability Rights Texas, and more civil rights organizations stipulating that the bill violates the Voting Rights Act, the American with Disabilities Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

Minutes after Abbott signed SB 1, another lawsuit was filed by voting and civil rights organizations including Voto Latino, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, Texas AFT, and LULAC Texas. On Tuesday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund also filed a lawsuit in Texas against SB 1. 

The signing of SB 1 also comes as a federal judge officially ruled recently that the state of Texas owes $6.8 million in legal fees after a lower court ruled that voter ID laws passed in 2011 discriminated against Black and Hispanic Texans.

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