US justice department sues Texas over new voting restrictions

A recently passed law in Texas will unfairly restrict voting rights, according to the US justice department.

Protesters in Austin show support for voting rights during a rally against Texas legislators who are advancing a slew of new voting restrictions [File: Mikala Compton/Reuters]

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas over a recently passed law the federal government says will unfairly restrict voting.

The suit filed on Thursday in federal court in San Antonio challenges the law known as SB1, which was passed in September to revamp voting and elections in the southwestern state.

However, the justice department says the measure, which prohibits drive-in voting and institutes several other restrictions on hours and mail-in ballots, violates federal voting and civil rights laws.

Supporters say the law makes elections safer by protecting against fraud, but critics have said it disproportionately affects minorities’ ability to vote, especially Black Americans, who tend to back Democrats.

‘Errors or omissions’

The justice department said in a statement the law harms the rights of voters by restricting access to assistance for those who need help to cast a ballot and by rejecting mail-in forms and ballots over “errors or omissions that are not material to establishing a voter’s eligibility to cast a ballot”.

The Texas law was part of a push by about 19 states that have signed off on 33 laws this year that restrict voting, according to the liberal-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.

Such laws have seen particular support in Republican states as former President Donald Trump has continued to baselessly claim that a significant voter fraud conspiracy lost him the 2020 presidential election.

About 50 Democratic Texas state legislators fled the state in mid-July in an effort to block the law by depriving the House of Representatives of the minimum number of legislators necessary to vote on legislation.

But the governor convened two subsequent special legislative sessions and enough Democrats finally returned to reach a quorum.

“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in the justice department statement.

“The justice department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”

The justice department under Democratic President Joe Biden is also battling in court with Texas over a law effectively banning abortions in the state passed in September.

Source: News Agencies