AUSTIN -- The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas and the Texas Secretary of State over certain restrictive voting procedures imposed by Texas Senate Bill 1.
The complaint, announced Nov. 4, challenges provisions of SB 1 claiming violations against the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a news release. “The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”
The complaint contends that SB 1 violates the Voting Rights Act by restricting what assistance individuals with a disability or inability to read or write can receive while voting. It also alleges the bill harms those voters by barring their assistors from providing necessary help, including answering basic questions, responding to requests to clarify ballot translations or confirming that voters with visual impairments have marked a ballot as intended, the release said.
The complaint also contends that the bill violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by requiring rejection of mail ballots and mail ballot request forms because of certain paperwork errors or omissions that are not material to establishing a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot.
The complaint asks the court to prohibit Texas from enforcing the requirements, the release said.
The department also filed a statement of interest Thursday in federal court in Texas, in litigation brought by private plaintiffs challenging SB 1. The statement addresses issues related to the Voting Rights Act, including explaining that it permits private plaintiffs to file suit to remedy racially discriminatory voting practices.
“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the fundamental right to vote for all Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in the news release. “Laws that impair eligible citizens’ access to the ballot box have no place in our democracy.”