AUSTIN, Texas — Civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit today challenging anti-voter Senate Bill 1.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Texas, the Texas Organizing Project, Workers Defense Action Fund, Register, Educate, Vote, & Use your Power - Texas (REV UP Texas), and OCA of Greater Houston.
In their lawsuit — filed by co-counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Disability Rights Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project and the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP, — these organizations argue that numerous provisions of the bill violate the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the U.S. Constitution. The legislation makes it virtually impossible for members of the plaintiff organizations to vote, especially those who are more comfortable with languages other than English, those with disabilities, and who have no option but to vote by mail. SB 1 is opposed by diverse groups of Texans — from business executives, faith leaders, community organizers, local elected officials and countless everyday Texans — including those represented by MOVE Texas, Common Cause Texas, Texas Freedom Network, AFL-CIO Texas, Black Voters Matter and Jolt Texas.
Recent non-partisan polling shows most voters, regardless of political party, believe that all Texans should have equal access to the ballot box. SB 1 would not only make voting harder for all Texans, it threatens to harm communities of color and Texans with disabilities the most.
The following are comments from the plaintiffs:
“The DISABILITY VOTE has been growing in Texas. SB 1 will inhibit people with disabilities from participating in future elections,” said Bob Kafka, Texas organizer with REV UP Texas.
“For democracy to work, it must include all voices. SB 1 is an extremist anti-voter bill that raises even more barriers to voting and specifically targets vulnerable communities, especially voters with disabilities, voters of color, and elderly voters,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “SB 1 is a violation of our freedom to vote, and we will continue to fight every attempt to silence Texas voters.”
"SB 1 deliberately targets people of color, the elderly, and those with disabilities, placing illegal restrictions on their access to the ballot box. There's no denying that this bill is an attack on democracy in our state and a transparent act of political desperation," said Brianna Brown, co-executive director of the Texas Organizing Project.
“Texas has a history of violating Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act – we will continue to fight when Texas tries to limit the federal rights of limited English speaking voters to get the language assistance they need. The SB 1 restrictions needlessly erect barriers for Immigrant, limited English proficient, seniors, and working class Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) citizens to exercise their right to vote, and go against the principle of equitable access,” said Deborah Chen, Civic Engagement Programs Director with OCA-Greater Houston.
“SB 1 is part of a larger coordinated attempt to take political power away from working families. We should be aiming to increase civic engagement throughout our state, not make it more difficult for our communities to exercise their right to vote. Texans building our state deserve to have their voices heard at the ballot box and SB 1 will significantly impact their ability to do so,” said Emily Timm, Workers Defense Action Fund Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director.
The following are comments from co-counsel:
“Voters with disabilities and voters with limited English proficiency have the same right to vote as anyone else,” said Tommy Buser-Clancy, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “SB 1 cruelly targets these voters and anyone who might assist them with increased burdens and unnecessary criminal penalties. These provisions are unlawful and part of a long history of Texas implementing discriminatory anti-voter measures. The legislation should be struck down.”
“This assault on voting rights and democracy cannot go unchallenged,” said Adriel Cepeda Derieux, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “We urge the court to strike down the barriers to voting that these new illegal restrictions impose.”
“In 2018 AALDEF enjoined Texas from restricting assistance to voters with limited English proficiency,” said Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, Senior Staff Attorney at AALDEF. “With SB1,Texas is at it again. SB 1’s restrictions on any assistance outside of reading and marking the ballot, like answering questions on how to use the voting machine or where to drop the completed ballot at the polling place, and SB 1’s criminalization of anyone answering those questions, unlawfully restricts the broad voting assistance rights under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.”
“People with disabilities, who make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, already face significant barriers to exercising their legal right to vote, such as physically inaccessible polling sites, election workers refusing to provide accommodations, mail-in ballots that cannot be used by people who are blind, and more,” said Lia Sifuentes Davis, Senior Litigation Attorney with Disability Rights Texas. “SB 1 is a discriminatory law that creates more unnecessary barriers and silences the voices of Texans with disabilities as well as Texans of color.”
“SB 1 officially cements Texas as the hardest state to vote in the country,” said Ryan V. Cox, Senior Attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “For decades, voters of color have been silenced through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and deceptive tactics. We cannot allow our democracy to be undermined by these blatantly illegal voting restrictions aimed at disenfranchising communities of color and voters with disabilities.”
“Equal access to voting is the foundation of democracy,” said Jessica Ring Amunson, Chair of Jenner & Block’s Election Law and Redistricting Practice. “This Texas bill violates the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are proud to fight to secure the right to vote for voters with disabilities and voters with limited English proficiency and the organizations that assist them in preserving this fundamental right.”
For more than 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, the ACLU takes on the toughest civil liberties fights in pursuit of liberty and justice for all.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a New York-based national organization founded in 1974, protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all. AALDEF focuses on critical issues affecting Asian Americans, including immigrant rights, voting rights and democracy, economic justice for workers, educational equity, housing and environmental justice, and the elimination of anti-Asian violence.
Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas established in 1977. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society.
The Texas Civil Rights Project is boldly serving the movement for equality and justice in and out of the courts. We use our tools of litigation and legal advocacy to protect and advance the civil rights of everyone in Texas, and we partner with communities across the state to serve the rising movement for social justice. We undertake our work with a vision of a Texas in which all communities can thrive with dignity, justice and without fear.
Jenner & Block LLP is a law firm with global reach, with offices in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. For decades, Jenner & Block lawyers have been involved in landmark election law cases, defending access to the ballot. We have represented voters, voting rights organizations, and elected officials in fighting to protect the right to vote.