AUSTIN, Texas -- The nation’s largest and oldest Latino civil rights organization has filed a federal lawsuit in hopes of preventing a sweeping new Texas voting law signed earlier this week by Gov. Greg Abbott from going into effect.
The lawsuit, filed by lawyers for the League of United Latin American Citizens in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin, names El Paso County elections director Lisa Wise along with elections officials in Bexar, Harris, Hidalgo, Travis and Dallas counties as defendants.
Wise confirmed to ABC-7 that she was served with a copy of the lawsuit on Friday (you can view it at the bottom of this article), but declined further comment.
The suit against the Texas elections officials claims the new law is unconstitutional and will “have a severe and disproportionate impact on Hispanics, blacks, and other communities of color.”
The new law further tightens state election rules and constrains local control of elections by limiting counties’ ability to expand voting options. Abbott’s signature on the measure 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.
Senate Bill 1 is set to take effect in time for the 2022 primary elections. But the law is likely to face a flurry of legal challenges that generally argue it will disproportionately harm voters of color and voters with disabilities.
“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,” Domingo Garcia, LULAC's national president told ABC affiliate KSAT. “Texas voters deserve fair, open, and transparent elections, not a process rigged to deny our communities whose numbers are growing, the right to vote.”
As KSAT reports, 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.