Election Battle

Voting Rights Advocates File Suit

Over Texas Election

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 7/20/2020 - Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP, and individual Texas voters filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas on July 16 challenging Texas’s in-person election practices, which is says are unsafe, high risk, and unequal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Free Speech For People, the law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and the law firm of Lyons & Lyons represent the plaintiffs in this case.
The lawsuit alleges that the state’s reliance on repeat-touch voting machines, its insufficient number of polling places, its limited and inaccessible early voting locations, and its voter identification requirements will result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission, which in turn will result in voter suppression.
   They allege that the health risks and adverse impact of these policies will place an undue burden on the right to vote and be borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law, the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and Fifteenth Amendment, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
   “Latinos are fired up and ready to vote in Texas. Our community is being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. No one should have to choose between voting and getting sick during this crisis. We know that voting is a constitutionally protected right, and, in these uncertain times, we should be giving Texans voting options that are all safe, healthy, and accessible, so that they can decide the one that best fits them,” Mi Familia Vota Texas State Director Angelica Razo said.
   More than 2.3 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. 120,000 have died; many others experienced a debilitating disease that has resulted in hospital stays and lengthy recovery times.
   In Texas, the first surge of the pandemic is still trending upwards, with the number of cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities on the rise in June. Public health experts warn that the crisis will likely to worsen in Texas without immediate and serious interventions.
   Moreover, public health experts warn that a second wave of COVID-19 is likely to occur in the fall, coinciding with the November 2020 general elections, and may be worse than the first. Due to existing socioeconomic and healthcare disparities, Black and Latino citizens have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness, resulting in higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death.
   “Today we stand for the people of Texas, because unless someone can step outside the proverbial political bubble and act with clarity, we will all suffer greatly without regard to our political affiliation. The United States Supreme Court has already invited a case to address polling place safety in a Covid-19 environment, and since our State's current guidelines offer no real value to protect voters, it is incumbent upon us to bring such a case forth for the sake of all Texans. It is Constitutionally impermissible to require voters to unreasonably risk their lives in order to exercise their cherished right to vote,” Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe said.
   Through the lawsuit, plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to secure safe, constitutional voting practices for Texas. Specifically, the complaint seeks:
  • Suspension of Texas law that limits mobile early voting, to enable counties to bring early voting to rural and mobility-limited populations in a safe manner.
  •  Extension of the duration of early voting
  • Prohibition of any reduction in the number of polling places in Texas
  • The opening of additional polling places in counties where lines typically exceed 20 minutes
  • The option of voting on hand-marked paper ballots, while maintaining working machines that are thoroughly disinfected after each vote to protect voters who need to use these machines to vote.
  • Implementation of social distancing at all polling places

Free Speech For People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and Lyons & Lyons LLP represent the plaintiffs pro bono. The lawsuit names Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs as defendants. The complain can be viewed here: Plaintiff's Complaint