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Justice Department Sues Texas Over Voting Rights Legislation

Nov. 4, 2021, 9:30 PM

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Thursday against Texas and its secretary of state over what it said were restrictive voting procedures in legislation passed in September.

The department said in a statement that the legislation improperly prevents voters from getting assistance in the voting booth when they have “basic questions” or need help with matters such as clarifying ballot translations or “confirming that voters with visual impairments have marked a ballot as intended.”

“Laws that impair eligible citizens’ access to the ballot box have no place in our democracy,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in the statement. “Texas Senate Bill 1’s restrictions on voter assistance at the polls and on which absentee ballots cast by eligible voters can be accepted by election officials are unlawful and indefensible.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the legislation, considered one of the most aggressive laws restricting access to the ballot, in September after Democratic lawmakers initially sought to prevent it from being considered by leaving the state en masse.

Although voting experts said Texas’s 2020 election was one of the nation’s most secure, Republican lawmakers backing former President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud have passed restrictive legislation in a range of states.

“We must have trust and confidence in our elections,” Abbott said when he signed the legislation. “The bill that I’m about to sign helps to achieve that goal.” The American Civil Liberties Union immediately countered, calling the bill “unconstitutional and anti-democratic.”

“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the DOJ statement. “The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”

To contact the reporter on this story:
Bill Faries in Washington at wfaries@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net

Larry Liebert

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.