Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the session’s main election bill into law today (Tuesday) in Tyler, and it already faces at least five lawsuits. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) does not take effect until December 2, which means the changes in law it makes will not be in use for November 2 constitutional amendment and local elections.
“Senate Bill 1 ensures trust and confidence in our elections systems,” Abbott said in a statement. “Most importantly, it makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”
Numerous civil rights, disability rights and voting rights advocates disagree given the scope of such groups acting as plaintiffs in four federal and one state lawsuit already lodged against the new law:
- LULAC Texas, Texas AFT, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and Voto Latino filed a federal lawsuit in Austin claiming the bill’s “suppressive provisions” violate the First and Fourteenth Amendment and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
- The ARC of Texas, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Houston Area Urban League, Houston Justice and a registered voter filed a federal suit in San Antonio challenging various provisions of the bill which it argues “erect barriers to the franchise that have the intent and effect of denying the vote on account of race or color.”
- Common Cause Texas, the Texas NCAAP and several registered voters filed a state suit in Harris County asserting intentional discrimination against communities of color.
- Prior to the bill’s signing, The Anti-Defamation League Austin, Jolt Action, Southwest Voter Registration Project, Texas Impact and others filed a federal suit in San Antonio claiming provisions of the bill discriminate against minority voters and “criminalize protected speech.” Isabel Longoria, the Harris Co. elections administrator, is also a plaintiff in this case.
- Also prior to the bill’s signing, the League of Women Voters of Texas, Texas Organizing Project, Workers Defense Action Fund and others filed a federal suit in Austin arguing the bill’s “cruel targeting of vulnerable voters and community organizations” violates the federal Voting Rights Act, Civil Right Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Constitution.
It is unclear whether the U.S. Dept. of Justice will file suit against the state as it did against Georgia earlier this year. Other lawsuits may also be filed against it.
“For democracy to work, it must include all voices,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, in a statement. Senate Bill 1 “targets vulnerable communities, especially voters with disabilities, voters of color and elderly voters.” Sean Morales-Doyle, acting director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the “new impediments to voting have no legitimate purpose in keeping Texas elections fair and secure.” He added that the bill “will limit the ability of election officials to do their job.”
HD118 special: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered a September 28 special election to fill the unexpired term of former Rep. Leo Pacheco (D-San Antonio), who resigned. The filing deadline is September 13, and an abbreviated early voting period begins September 20.
Redistricting: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has called a third special session to begin September 20. The proclamation (PDF) includes redistricting but no other election-related matters. For now, that would put the brakes on an otherwise fast-moving bill from the second special session that would create various “audits” and “reviews” of, and “explanations” from, county election officials. Abbott could add this issue – or any other – during the session.
SD12 open: Rep. Tan Parker’s (R-Flower Mound) campaign released a set of endorsements including U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville), Pete Sessions (R-Waco) and Beth Van Duyne (R-Irving); former U.S. Rep. Dick Armey (R-Lewisville); and former Gov. Rick Perry (R).
Former Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) announced he would not seek the seat. Simmons said he is “very happy” in his current role as Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) appointed board chair of the Texas Mutual Insurance Company. This would also apparently rule out running for his former seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), who defeated Simmons in 2018.
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