Federal trial against Texas' anti-voter law S.B. 1 begins
Lawsuit argues that Senate Bill 1 violates numerous federal laws
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - A federal judge will hear arguments starting today in a consolidated trial against Texas’ controversial anti-voter law Senate Bill 1. The trial is scheduled to last several weeks.
Texas politicians passed the sweeping bill during a special legislative session in the fall of 2021 following months of protests and a quorum break that brought the legislature to a standstill.
At trial, plaintiffs OCA-Greater Houston (OCA-GH), the League of Women Voters of Texas (LWVTX), and REVUP-Texas (REVUP), who are represented by the Texas Civil Rights Project, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Disability Rights Texas, and the law firm Jenner & Block LLP, are challenging provisions of S.B. 1 that criminalize certain types of mail-voting assistance and certain types of political speech in the “physical presence” of a ballot.
The groups are arguing that these provisions violate the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the U.S. Constitution. S.B. 1 makes it virtually impossible for many members of the plaintiff organizations to vote, especially for people who are more comfortable with languages other than English, for people with disabilities, and for those who have no other option but to vote by mail.
The following are statements from the litigation team:
“Over the next few weeks, we will hear from voters and leaders of Texas voting rights organizations about the barriers the state’s anti-voting law has created for so many of us — whether voters of color, elderly voters, or voters with disabilities,” said Savannah Kumar (she/they), attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “This anti-democratic law has criminalized civic participation in communities across the state. We look forward to proving in court that this voter suppression law should be struck down.”
“This lawsuit has already resulted in major strides toward striking down barriers to the ballot box, and we look forward to arguing the rest of our case at trial,” said Zachary Dolling (he/him), senior staff attorney with the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. “We cannot allow our democracy to be undermined by these blatantly illegal voting restrictions that directly impact and disenfranchise communities of color and voters with disabilities.”
“S.B. 1 is a sweeping attack on our democracy that disproportionately harms voters of color and those with disabilities. It cannot go unchallenged,” said Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux (he/him), deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “That’s why we’re going to trial and fighting for the voters of Texas.”
“This trial will show that S.B. 1 plainly discriminates against Texas’ limited English speaking and disabled voters,” said Susana Lorenzo-Giguere (she/her), associate director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program. “Even before this trial has begun, the court has already struck down S.B. 1’s restrictions on assistance and immaterial ID matching that barred members of Texas’ Asian American community from casting their ballots. S.B. 1’s voter disenfranchisement cannot be sanctioned.”
“We have already seen provisions of S.B. 1 rolled back as unlawful restrictions on voting,” said Alex Trepp (he/him), partner at Jenner & Block. “The right to vote – and have your vote counted – is fundamental to our democracy. Jenner & Block is proud of its tradition of fighting against attempts at voter suppression.”
The following are statements from the plaintiffs:
"We have already shown with this lawsuit that voting is a precious and fundamental right,” said Bob Kafka (he/him), state coordinator for REV UP Texas. “We now look forward to showing at trial the disability-related barriers that certain provisions of S.B. 1 created for voters with disabilities to vote, and exercise the power of the Disability Vote. NOTHING ABOUT US WITHOUT US.”
“The League is proud to oppose this law’s anti-voter requirements,” said Elisabeth MacNamara (she/her), Vice President of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “S.B. 1 must be struck down so that the vital voter empowerment work of organizations like the League of Women Voters and the rights of the voters they serve can be protected.”
“S.B. 1 and laws like it are direct attempts to prevent historically disenfranchised communities from voting and the League won't waver in its fight to challenge them,” said Celina Stewart (she/her), chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation at the League of Women Voters of the US. “The League looks forward to its day in court in Texas to be heard on how harmful this law is on voters who rely on the League’s services, including voters of color and those who need assistance to vote.”
“Asian Americans are as American as anyone else, regardless of our language ability,” said Debbie Chen (she/her), civic engagement programs director at OCA-GH. “Our civic participation is crucial and we will not let Texas shut us out. Time and again Texas has tried and we will continue to fight and overcome these barriers. We are confident the court will find that S.B. 1 discriminates against our community members, denying access to our elderly, non-English speaking, and disabled. We will not rest until we all can vote.”
In August 2023, the district court ruled in favor of OCA-GH, LWVTX, and REVUP, finding on summary judgment that S.B. 1’s identification number matching requirement violates the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it resulted, and will continue to result, in tens of thousands of mail ballots thrown out for irrelevant paperwork errors.
In June 2022, another district court modified a permanent injunction in favor of OCA-GH, finding that S.B. 1’s oath, which limited the type of assistance that could be rendered to voters with limited English proficiency or disabilities, conflicts with its 2018 permanent injunction where it found that identical limiting language violated Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.
Access the summary judgment ruling here.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas is a leading civil rights organization in the Lone Star State. Since our formation in 1938, the ACLU of Texas has worked in the courts, the legislature, and through public education to protect civil rights and individual liberty for all Texans.
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.
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.
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.
For additional information, contact:
ACLU of Texas, firstname.lastname@example.org
ACLU National, email@example.com
Texas Civil Rights Project, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jenner & Block, email@example.com