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Court Finds Texas Law Rejecting Mail Ballots and Applications Violates the Civil Rights Act

August 22, 2023

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled yesterday that portions of Texas Senate Bill 1, adopted in September 2021, violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court found that parts of S.B. 1 require officials to reject mail-in ballot applications and mail-in ballots based on errors or omissions that are not material in determining whether voters are qualified under Texas law to vote or cast a mail ballot.

“The District Court’s decision affirms what the Justice Department has argued for nearly two years: these provisions of Texas Senate Bill 1 unlawfully restrict the ability of eligible Texas voters to vote by mail and to have that vote counted,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will continue to defend against unlawful efforts that undermine the right to vote and restrict participation in our democracy.”

In requiring rejection of mail ballots and mail ballot applications from eligible voters based on minor paperwork errors or omissions, Texas Senate Bill 1 violates the Civil Rights Act.

The United States presented evidence to the court that S.B. 1 has resulted in Texas election officials rejecting tens of thousands of mail ballot applications and mail ballots cast in elections since the bill was enacted in 2021. The Department asserts that these rejections violate federal law, denying Texas voters the statutory right to vote protected by Section 101.

Yesterday’s preliminary ruling from the court grants the Justice Department’s motion for summary judgment, which the Department filed in May 2023, in its entirety.  The court noted that the ruling will be followed in the coming weeks by a final written opinion and order.