Voting rights fight: Lawsuit filed to stop new Texas law that adds restrictions to voter registration

Bexar County elections administrator one of six named in suit

SAN ANTONIO – A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against six Texas county election offices, including Bexar County, in an effort to stop a newly signed voting law from taking effect.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Voto Latino filed the suit seeking to pause the implementation of Senate Bill 1111, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott this month and is slated to take effect Sept. 1.

SB 1111 is a GOP-backed measure to add restrictions to the type of addresses that can be used when a voter registers and requires proof of residence for someone who uses a P.O. Box.

Supporters of the legislation say that it will prevent Texans from using non-residential addresses when registering to vote, such as “vacant lots, mail box stores, motels, and commercial locations.” However, critics say the law would create a barrier to the ballot box for several voting groups, particularly those with low incomes or who move frequently.

“It would impact college students, people who are seasonal workers, and it strictly targets Black and brown voters,” LULAC national president Domingo Garcia said in an interview with KSAT on Tuesday. “... We believe that we’re going to be able to prove on the merits before a federal judge that this law is unconstitutional.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Austin in an effort to stop election administrators from imposing the law in their respective counties. Jacque Callenen, the elections administrator for Bexar County, was one of six named in the suit.

SB 1111 is one of several voting laws that Republicans pushed for in this year’s Texas Legislature. Many of the measures, though, failed because an omnibus package of legislation — SB 7 — was defeated in a high-profile quorum break by Democrats on the final day of session.

Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to call lawmakers back for a special session, which is expected to focus on changes to voting laws.

Garcia said if SB 7 passes that they will also pursue a lawsuit on that measure.

“The Republicans in Texas just don’t get it, that you can win the hearts and minds of Latinos and African-Americans on a message, you don’t have to suppress our vote and make it more difficult to vote,” Garcia said. “Give us a fair shake in a fair election.”

KSAT 12 reached out to Bexar County elections administrator Jacquelyn Callanen for a statement and she stated at this time she could not comment on the lawsuit.

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About the Author

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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