AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Biden administration on Thursday sued Texas over new election laws that outlasted a summer of dramatic protests by Democrats, who remain unable in Congress to pass legislation they say is needed to counteract a year of Republicans adding restrictive voting measures nationwide.
The lawsuit does not go after the entirety of a sweeping bill signed in September by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, which already has some of the nation’s toughest voting rules. Instead, the challenge filed in a San Antonio federal court targets provisions surrounding mail-in voting requirements and voter assistance, which the Justice Department argues violate federal civil rights protections.
It now puts two of the Texas GOP’s biggest conservative victories this year in court against the federal government, as the Justice Department is simultaneously trying to stop a new Texas law that has banned most abortions since September.
“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. ”The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”
Georgia’s new voting laws also drew a lawsuit this summer from the Biden administration, which is under pressure from the Democratic base to take greater action on voting rights, a top priority for the party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. But time is running out and Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked federal legislation to change election laws, including another attempt Wednesday.
Opponents of the Texas law known as Senate Bill 1 had already sued the state, accusing Republicans of setting out to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters. The bill specifically targets Democratic strongholds, and was followed by Abbott weeks later signing new voting maps that fortify the GOP’s slipping dominance amid the state’s explosive growth.