Justice Department Sues Texas Over Voting Bill, Alleging It Violates Civil Rights Act

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state of Texas over the legality of a recent voting law passed by the Texas Senate.

Texas Senate Bill 1 put a series of sweeping new restrictions on state voting laws and also limited the abilities of individual counties to increase voter options. The bill was backed by Senate Republicans and signed in August by Governor Greg Abbott.

In the lawsuit's filing, the DOJ argues that the Texas bill violates a number of federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The acts helped to uphold the right to vote, which is guaranteed by the 15th Amendment.

This was brushed off by Governor Abbott, who has previously called the law a "paradigm" for other states to pass similar measures, and has said that it would make it "harder to cheat at the ballot box."

Opponents, however, have argued that the law unfairly restricts access to voting for no specific reason.

Texas Voting Law
The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the state of Texas over a new restrictive voting law that makes it harder for minorities and other groups to cast their ballots. Shown above is the Texas State Capitol building in Austin, Texas. Tamir Kalifa/Getty

President Joe Biden called the bill part of "an-out assault on our democracy," and Vice-President Kamala Harris stated that it was "one of the most restrictive in the nation."

The DOJ agreed with Biden and Harris, arguing in the court filing that the law would strip the right to vote away from innumerable Texans.

"The challenged provisions will disenfranchise eligible Texas citizens who seek to
exercise their right to vote, including voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home, and American citizens residing outside of the country," the DOJ argued.

"These vulnerable voters already confront barriers to the ballot box, and [Senate Bill 1] will exacerbate the challenges they face in exercising their fundamental right to vote," the filing continued.

Even prior to the passage of the new bill, Texas already imposed some of the most stringent voter requirements of any state in the union, according to the DOJ.

The bill, it was argued, further disenfranchises voters by restricting people from receiving needed assistance in the voting booth. This includes blocking voters from getting answers to questions or receiving clarification on any portion of a ballot.

The codified bill even states that assistors are to "confine [their] assistance to reading the ballot to the voter."

Texas has placed further restrictions on mail-in and absentee ballots, which the DOJ stated was already limited to "a small subject of the electorate, even in the midst of a global pandemic."

Senate Bill 1 further restricts Texas citizens by "[disenfranchising] eligible mail voters based on paperwork errors or ommissions immaterial to their qualifications to vote."

The lawsuit was filed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who sued the state seeking injunctive, preventative, and permanent relief for alleged violations of Texans' rights to vote.

Also named in the lawsuit was a long list of previous court cases in which it was argued that Texas had applied similar voting restrictions. The filing pointed out a history of discrimination among disabled and minority voters.

Newsweek has reached out to the Texas Secretary of State's office for comment.