The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Texas’s new voting restrictions, alleging they disenfranchise eligible voters — including the elderly and those with disabilities — and that they violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit was filed against the state of Texas and the Texas secretary of state over Senate Bill 1, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R, signed into law in September. The bill imposed new criminal penalties for violating voting laws, banned 24-hour and drive-through voting and allowed more access for partisan poll watchers.

“Our democracy depends on the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot and to have that ballot counted,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday. “The Justice Department will continue to use all the authorities at its disposal to protect this fundamental pillar of our society.”

In September, Abbott argued that the legislation would “solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

But opponents swiftly took to federal court, filing two separate complaints seeking injunctions to stop the bill from going into effect.

The Justice Department’s complaint alleges that provisions of S.B. 1 will harm eligible Texas citizens seeking to exercise their right to vote, including those with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home and American citizens residing abroad.


The complaint also argued that, even before S.B. 1, Texas had already imposed some of the most strict limitations in the country on granting voting assistance to certain citizens and on mail-in voting, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Laws that impair eligible citizens’ access to the ballot box have no place in our democracy,” Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement. “Texas Senate Bill 1’s restrictions on voter assistance at the polls and on which absentee ballots cast by eligible voters can be accepted by election officials are unlawful and indefensible.”

The new voting restrictions in Texas are part of a wave of efforts by GOP-led state legislatures and Republican governors who have enacted or tried to enact voting restrictions across the country. For nearly a year, former president Donald Trump has falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, and Trump has continued to push Republican-led audits of election results and sow doubt in the integrity of elections throughout the country. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the results of the election.

In March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, R, signed into law a restrictive voting bill that curtails the use of drop boxes and imposes new ID requirements for mail voting. The state faced immediate blowback from Democrats and civil rights groups, as well as economic consequences as corporations spoke out against the bill.

Earlier this year, Texas state Democrats went to extreme measures to try to block their Republican colleagues from passing new voting restrictions. In May, Democrats in the Texas House staged a walkout to prevent the Republican majority from passing what was then known as S.B. 7.

In July, after Abbott called a special session to take up the issue of voting restrictions again, dozens of Texas Democrats fled the state, traveling to Washington to implore their colleagues in Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.

Such efforts floundered, however. Republican senators on Wednesday blocked debate on the third major voting rights bill that congressional Democrats have sought to pass this year. The vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — named after the civil rights icon and congressman who died last year — fell short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed, 51 to 49. Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted to advance it.

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Eva Ruth Moravec and The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.