AUSTIN, TX (AP) – On Thursday, the Biden administration sued Texas over new voting rules that have weathered a summer of dramatic protests by Democrats who face fading hopes of revising national electoral laws in response to a wave of new restrictions imposed by Republicans. states.
The lawsuit is not being held following a full measure signed in September by Republican Greg Abbott of Texas, which already has some of the country’s toughest voting rules. Instead, the complaint filed in federal court in San Antonio focuses on provisions relating to mail-order and voter assistance requirements that the Justice Department claims violate federal civil rights protections.
Now, it poses two of the Texas GOP’s biggest conservative victories this year against the federal government, as the Justice Department simultaneously tries to stop a new Texas law that has banned most abortions since September.
New voting laws in Georgia also prompted a lawsuit this summer from the Biden administration, which is under pressure from the democratic base to take more proactive action on voting rights, a top priority for the party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Time is running out and Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked federal legislation with the aim of changing electoral laws, including another attempt on Wednesday.
“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to vote and count this ballot,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The Department of Justice will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”
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Opponents of the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 1, have already sued the state, accusing Republicans of intending to strip minorities and other Democratic-minded voters from voting.
Abbott and other Texas Republicans say the changes provide protection against electoral fraud, which is rare.
“Biden is coming after Texas for SB1, our recently passed election integrity law,” Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. “This is a great and much needed account. Ensuring safe, secure, and transparent elections in Texas is my top priority. See you in court, Biden! “
Under a new Texas law, people assisting voters who need help filling out ballots must take a longer oath, which now includes accepting the penalty for perjury. It also removes old phrases about answering voter questions that opponents believe could harm voters with disabilities.
Ballot papers mailed now have to include a driver’s license number or the last four digits of a social security number, which the Justice Department said increases the chances of false ballots being rejected and the exclusion of some eligible voters.
The law also bans round-the-clock polling stations and pass-through voting, which is not contested in the Justice Department’s claim.
Legislation in Texas kicked off a summer of strikes by Democrats, for which Republicans threatened them with arrest, and Abbott vetoed the salaries of thousands of ordinary employees when the bill did not reach him sooner. At one point, more than 50 Democratic MPs fled to Washington, causing the Texas Capitol to be halted for 38 days.
Texas Democrats had hoped the gambit would force Congress to enact new federal voting rights protections, but these efforts have repeatedly stalled. GOP senators are opposing the Democratic vote bills as a “power grab.”
Texas is among at least 18 states to impose new voting restrictions after the 2020 elections, according to the Brennan Justice Center. The laws are part of the GOP’s national campaign, including in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, to tighten voting laws in the name of security, driven in part by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen.
Trump urged Abbott to audit the Texas election results even though he won the state. Last month, Abbott appointed a new state election chief, attorney John Scott, who briefly joined Trump’s legal team last year as it challenged the 2020 results.