SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - A federal judge will hear arguments starting today in a consolidated trial against Texas’ controversial anti-voter law Senate Bill 1. The trial is scheduled to last several weeks.
Texas politicians passed the sweeping bill during a special legislative session in the fall of 2021 following months of protests and a quorum break that brought the legislature to a standstill.
At trial, plaintiffs OCA-Greater Houston (OCA-GH), the League of Women Voters of Texas (LWVTX), and REVUP-Texas (REVUP), who are represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Disability Rights Texas, and the law firm Jenner & Block LLP, are challenging provisions of S.B. 1 that criminalize certain types of mail-voting assistance and certain types of political speech in the “physical presence” of a ballot.
The groups are arguing that these provisions violate the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the U.S. Constitution. S.B. 1 makes it virtually impossible for many members of the plaintiff organizations to vote, especially for people who are more comfortable with languages other than English, for people with disabilities, and for those who have no other option but to vote by mail.
The following are statements from the litigation team:
“Over the next few weeks, we will hear from voters and leaders of Texas voting rights organizations about the barriers the state’s anti-voting law has created for so many of us — whether voters of color, elderly voters, or voters with disabilities,” said Savannah Kumar (she/they), attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “This anti-democratic law has criminalized civic participation in communities across the state. We look forward to proving in court that this voter suppression law should be struck down.”
“This lawsuit has already resulted in major strides toward striking down barriers to the ballot box, and we look forward to arguing the rest of our case at trial,” said Zachary Dolling (he/him), senior staff attorney with the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “We cannot allow our democracy to be undermined by these blatantly illegal voting restrictions that directly impact and disenfranchise communities of color and voters with disabilities.”
“S.B. 1 is a sweeping attack on our democracy that disproportionately harms voters of color and those with disabilities. It cannot go unchallenged,” said Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux (he/him), deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “That’s why we’re going to trial and fighting for the voters of Texas.”
“This trial will show that S.B. 1 plainly discriminates against Texas’ limited English speaking and disabled voters,” said Susana Lorenzo-Giguere (she/her), associate director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program. “Even before this trial has begun, the court has already struck down S.B. 1’s restrictions on assistance and immaterial ID matching that barred members of Texas’ Asian American community from casting their ballots. S.B. 1’s voter disenfranchisement cannot be sanctioned.”
“We have already seen provisions of S.B. 1 rolled back as unlawful restrictions on voting,” said Alex Trepp (he/him), partner at Jenner & Block. “The right to vote – and have your vote counted – is fundamental to our democracy. Jenner & Block is proud of its tradition of fighting against attempts at voter suppression.”
The following are statements from the plaintiffs:
"We have already shown with this lawsuit that voting is a precious and fundamental right,” said Bob Kafka (he/him), state coordinator for REV UP Texas. “We now look forward to showing at trial the disability-related barriers that certain provisions of S.B. 1 created for voters with disabilities to vote, and exercise the power of the Disability Vote. NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US.”
“The League is proud to oppose this law’s anti-voter requirements,” said Elisabeth MacNamara (she/her), Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “S.B. 1 must be struck down so that the vital voter empowerment work of organizations like the League of Women Voters and the rights of the voters they serve can be protected.”
“S.B. 1 and laws like it are direct attempts to prevent historically disenfranchised communities from voting and the League won't waver in its fight to challenge them,” said Celina Stewart (she/her), chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation at the League of Women Voters of the US. “The League looks forward to its day in court in Texas to be heard on how harmful this law is on voters who rely on the League’s services, including voters of color and those who need assistance to vote.”
“Asian Americans are as American as anyone else, regardless of our language ability,” said Debbie Chen (she/her), civic engagement programs director at OCA-GH. “Our civic participation is crucial and we will not let Texas shut us out. Time and again Texas has tried and we will continue to fight and overcome these barriers. We are confident the court will find that S.B. 1 discriminates against our community members, denying access to our elderly, non-English speaking, and disabled. We will not rest until we all can vote.”
In August 2023, the district court ruled in favor of OCA-GH, LWVTX, and REVUP, finding on summary judgment that S.B. 1’s identification number matching requirement violates the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it resulted, and will continue to result, in tens of thousands of mail ballots thrown out for irrelevant paperwork errors.
In June 2022, another district court modified a permanent injunction in favor of OCA-GH, finding that S.B. 1’s oath, which limited the type of assistance that could be rendered to voters with limited English proficiency or disabilities, conflicts with its 2018 permanent injunction where it found that identical limiting language violated Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.
Access the summary judgment ruling here.
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