Houston Justice v. Abbott

Date Filed: 09/07/2021

On September 7, 2021, The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Reed Smith LLP, and The Arc filed a federal lawsuit challenging S.B. 1, a new Texas law that greatly restricts access to voting. S.B. 1 includes several suppressive voting provisions that will make it much harder for Texans to vote and disenfranchise some altogether, particularly Black and Latino voters and voters with disabilities. 

Texas has a long history of voter discrimination and S.B. 1 is the latest chapter in this shameful legacy. S.B. 1 is a clear attack on the rights of Black and Brown voters who turned out in record numbers to vote in the 2020 election. Texas legislators designed a bill that targets voting methods – including ‘drive-thru’ voting and 24-hour early voting – that Black and Brown Texans relied on to safely cast their ballots during the pandemic.

The lawsuit challenges multiple provisions of S.B. 1, including:

Read the full lawsuit challenging S.B. 1 here.

Houston Area Urban League, Houston Justice, Delta Sigma Theta, and The Arc of Texas are the plaintiffs in the case. The lawsuit argues that S.B. 1 violates the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by intentionally targeting and burdening methods and means of voting used by voters of color. The Plaintiffs also claim that the law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act by imposing voting barriers that will discriminate against voters with disabilities and deny people with disabilities full and equal opportunities to participate in the state’s voting programs.

Texas is not alone: The threat in other states

Texas now joins Georgia, Florida, and at least 16 other states that have passed voter suppression laws this year in direct response to voters of color using their power at the polls to demand change and accountability. To date, more than 400 restrictive voting bills have been introduced.

  • In Georgia, legislators enacted burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary restrictions on voters by imposing narrow identification requirements for requesting and casting an absentee ballot, imposing restrictions on drop boxes, drastically reducing early voting in runoff elections, and making it a crime for volunteers to provide water and snacks to voters waiting in line. LDF swiftly filed a lawsuit challenging S.B. 202.
  • In Florida, S.B. 90 was passed on April 29 with provisions that include eliminating drop boxes altogether; adding ID requirements to vote-by-mail applications; and eliminating the ability for the Secretary of Elections to automatically send vote-by-mail ballots to voters. LDF swiftly filed a lawsuit challenging S.B. 90.

This state-by-state effort to suppress the right to vote – aided by the Supreme Court’s decisions in Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. DNC, which severely weakened the Voting Rights Act (VRA) – can be mitigated by state voting rights acts that restore key provisions of the VRA, like preclearance requirements, and protect voters of color.