WASHINGTON – Less than an hour after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law Tuesday that enacts new voting restrictions in Texas, the nation’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization filed a federal lawsuit in hopes of preventing the law from going into effect.
The lawsuit, filed by lawyers for the League of United Latin American Citizens, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against Texas elections officials because the organization claims the new law violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and will “have a severe and disproportionate impact on Hispanics, blacks, and other communities of color.”
The new law further tightens state election laws and constrains local control of elections by limiting counties’ ability to expand voting options. Abbott’s signature ended months of legislative clashes and standoffs during which Democrats — propelled by concerns that the legislation raises new barriers for marginalized voters — forced Republicans into two extra legislative sessions.
SB 1 is set to take effect three months after the special legislative session, in time for the 2022 primary elections. But the law faces a flurry of legal challenges that generally argue it will disproportionately harm voters of color and voters with disabilities, which LULAC condemns.
“LULAC strongly opposes this attack on our voting rights and freedoms because they have one and only one purpose; to dilute our voice at the ballot box and continue to stop electoral change in Texas,” said says Domingo Garcia, LULAC national president. “Texas voters deserve fair, open, and transparent elections, not a process rigged to deny our communities whose numbers are growing, the right to vote.”
While SB 1 makes some changes that could expand access, namely increasing early voting hours in smaller, mostly Republican counties, the new law otherwise restricts how and when voters cast ballots. It specifically targets voting initiatives used by diverse, Democratic Harris County, the state’s most populous, by banning overnight early voting hours and drive-thru voting — both of which proved popular among voters of color last year.
The new law will also ratchet up voting-by-mail rules in a state where the option is already significantly limited, give partisan poll watchers increased autonomy inside polling places by granting them free movement and set new rules — and criminal penalties — for voter assistance. It also makes it a state jail felony for local election officials to proactively distribute applications for mail-in ballots, even if they are providing them to voters who automatically qualify to vote by mail or groups helping get out of the vote.
Editor’s Note: The Texas Tribune contributed to this story.
You can read LULAC’s lawsuit below: