The Justice Department has sued Texas over a Republican-backed voting bill signed into law earlier this year.
The law, signed in September by Gov. Greg Abbott, was one of the two bills 60 Democratic lawmakers, who are in the minority in the Texas Legislature, sought to stonewall by fleeing the state to prevent the quorum needed for passage.
The law 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,” according to the lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday.
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The law effectively rolled back pandemic-era expansions on voting capabilities such as 24-hour and drive-thru voting, gave more authority to partisan poll watchers, and implemented new hurdles to mail voting.
The lawsuit focuses on two key parts of the new law: The rejection of mail-in ballots for clerical errors or omission of certain paperwork and new limits on the assistance in voting booths.
The law requires that mail-in ballots either contain a voter's driver's license number or Social Security number. If the SSN is chosen, a voter has to place it on the paper twice. According to the DOJ, requiring someone to remember their ID number "will curtail fundamental voting rights without advancing any legitimate state interest."
“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” United States Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press release. “The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, reacted to the lawsuit by saying it bolsters election security.
"Biden is coming after Texas for SB1, our recently enacted election integrity law," Paxton tweeted. "Ensuring Texas has safe, secure, and transparent elections is a top priority of mine. I will see you in court, Biden!"
The Justice Department announced a similar lawsuit against Georgia over its new election laws earlier this year, with Garland alleging the voter laws could restrict the rights of black Georgians. Georgia officials have defended the measures as commonsense protections against fraud and have condemned claims they are “Jim Crow 2.0.”
Texas and the Biden administration are locked in other litigation fights, including those related to battles over immigration, abortion rights, and vaccine mandates.