Democratic Party officials in the State of Texas are suing the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton for the alleged right to send unsolicited mail-in ballots to voters.
“An election administrator and a volunteer deputy registrar asked a federal court in Texas Tuesday for a preliminary injunction in their lawsuit seeking to block provisions of a new elections law in the state that prohibits public officials from soliciting vote by mail ballot applications,” Courthouse News reported in late December.
“Isabel Longoria, elections administrator for Harris County, and Cathy Morgan, a deputy registrar in Williamson and Travis counties, arguing in their 24-page motion that the mail-in voting provisions violate their First Amendment right to free speech,” the suit added.
The lawsuit provides the background to the statute under contention.
“On September 7, 2021, Texas enacted Senate Bill 1 (“SB 1”),” the plaintiffs state. “Among other things, Section 7.04 of SB 1, codified at Section 276.016 of the Texas Election Code, makes it a crime for a public official or election official to solicit an application to vote by mail from anyone, even if a voter is eligible to do so. Section 276.016(a)(1) provides that a ‘public official or election official commits an offense if the official, while acting in an official capacity knowingly . . . solicits the submission of an application to vote by mail from a person who did not request an application’.”
“Subject to two narrow exceptions (the ‘general information’ and ‘candidate for office’ exceptions, each discussed below), any form of solicitation by a public official or election official is a crime, regardless of whether the solicited individual is eligible to vote by mail,” the lawsuit continues. “Under Section 276.016(a)(1), that crime is punishable as a state jail felony, which carries a mandatory minimum of six months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.”
The litigants argue that the law “creates a content-based restriction on their right to discuss vote by mail applications,” Courthouse News notes. “In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that they are not allowed to encourage or direct eligible voters to request an application to vote by mail because that could be seen as soliciting. But discouraging voters from applying to vote by mail is not prohibited. The officials assert that the restriction does not protect a specific state interest worthy of suppressing speech.”
“Senate Bill 1 subjects me to criminal prosecution for encouraging eligible voters to vote by mail so they may participate in our democracy, an option they have under Texas law,” Longoria said in a statement.
The lawsuit can be read in full below:
The plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Court Judge Fred Biery, who was appointed under Clinton, to grant the injunction by February 14.
Courthouse News notes that Latino rights groups across the state filed two federal lawsuits claiming the law “violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Constitution,” adding that in November, the Department of Justice filed suit against the state over the law, arguing that it “harms disabled and non-English speaking voters by not allowing poll workers to provide needed assistance.”
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This story syndicated with permission from Trending Politics