Texas Voter Suppression Law Violates Civil Rights, Judge Rules: A bench trial ov…

A bench trial over Senate Bill 1 is set for next month

Early voting for the 2022 midterm election at LBJ School of Public Affairs (Photo by John Anderson)

Remember how the state threw tens of thousands of Texans’ ballots out in 2022?

The ACLU says, all told, nearly 40,000 rejections occurred during the primary and general election in 2022. Some of those ballots were trashed because voters made mistakes writing down their ID numbers. “We’ve spoken to countless Texans whose votes were rejected when attempting to comply with the State’s broken ID-matching system,” ACLU of Texas attorney Ashley Harris said Friday.

Ballots with such errors wouldn’t have been thrown out in previous years, but voter suppression legislation enacted in 2021 – Senate Bill 1 – required early voting clerks to reject them. The national ACLU, ACLU of Texas, and other civil rights advocates sued the state over SB 1 in 2021, arguing that the law violates the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

Thursday, a federal court agreed with one of the ACLU’s arguments, ruling that throwing out mail-in applications and ballots because of ID number errors violates the federal Civil Rights Act. (The federal law states that “no person acting under color of law shall … deny the right of any individual to vote in any election because of an error or omission on any record or paper … if such error or omission is not material in determining whether such individual qualified under State law to vote.”)

“We are ecstatic that the Court agreed that voters should be able to vote by mail without worrying that their vote will be arbitrarily rejected,” Harris said. But the ID error element of SB 1 is only one piece of the anti-voter law – it restricts voting by mail, bans drive through voting, and empowers partisan poll watchers. A bench trial over SB 1 is set to begin September 11.

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