87th LegislatureFederalJudicialJustice Department Goes on Offense Against Texas Election Integrity Protection Act

The Biden administration filed a new lawsuit against the voter ID and voter assistant provisions lawmakers recently added to the state election code.
November 5, 2021
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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has dipped its toes into a legal battle with the State of Texas over the major election reform bill that Gov. Abbott signed into law a few months ago, filing a lawsuit in federal court against two provisions in the Election Integrity Protection Act of 2021.

While the final omnibus bill was 76 pages long, the DOJ’s lawsuit asks the court to enjoin the state from enforcing only three specific sections: the first being a revised oath for voting assistants, and the latter two related to the rejection of mail ballot materials because of the failure to include an identification number.

Of the relevant sections, the DOJ argues:

  • “Section 6.04 of [Senate Bill (SB) 1] prohibits a voter’s assistor of choice from providing federally protected assistance by limiting permissible actions to ‘reading the ballot to the voter, directing the voter to read the ballot, marking the voter’s ballot, or directing the voter to mark the ballot.’ [The section] violates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10508, by prohibiting eligible voters’ assistors of choice from providing necessary and effective forms of assistance.”
  • “Section 5.07 and Section 5.13 of SB 1 violate Section 101 by requiring rejection of mail ballot materials—thereby denying the right to vote—because of errors or omissions not material in determining whether such individuals are qualified to vote.”

In addition to the DOJ’s complaint, the department also filed a statement of interest in the consolidated lawsuit that attacks the election bill more broadly.

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

The Texan Tumbler

Texas House Democratic Caucus chair Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), Mexican American Legislative Caucus chair Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas), Texas Legislative Black Caucus chair Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), and Texas Legislative Study Group chair Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) released a joint statement applauding the Biden administration’s new efforts against the Republican-led election reform measure in Texas.

“We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Biden Administration for taking decisive action to stop Texas Republicans’ continued attacks on our democracy,” they said. “This bill was never about election security or voter integrity. It was always about Texas Republicans using the Big Lie to justify restricting access to the ballot box.”

Though they applauded the DOJ’s efforts, they also urged Congress to act on federal legislation that would implement their preferred sweeping election reforms across the country.

But statewide GOP officials in Texas say that they are ready to defend the new state law.

“Bring it,” tweeted Gov. Greg Abbott. “The Texas election integrity law is legal. It INCREASES hours to vote. It does restrict illegal mail ballot voting. Only those who qualify can vote by mail. It also makes ballot harvesting a felony. In Texas it is easier to vote but harder to cheat.”

Likewise, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called SB 1 “a great and much-needed bill.”

“Ensuring Texas has safe, secure, and transparent elections is a top priority of mine,” said Paxton. “I will see you in court, Biden!”

Judge Xavier Rodriguez scheduled the case for a status conference and hearing on any pending motions for November 16, 2021, telling the parties to be “prepared to discuss [. . .] whether this case should be consolidated” with the other pending lawsuit against the election bill.

Update: This article was updated to include the date for a hearing set in the case.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.