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Portions of Texas’ 2021 voting law that prevented assistance to voters with limited English proficiency and voters with disabilities can no longer be enforced.
A federal judge in Texas issued a judgment last month repealed provisions in a new Texas law, called Senate Bill 1, that puts limits on how people can help voters cast their ballots. State officials had until last week to appeal the ruling, but they refused. The Texas attorney general’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Lisa Snead, litigation attorney at Texas Disability Rights, said the court’s decision is a huge win for voters with disabilities in the state.
“The regulation that limits SB 1 support…really limits what voters with disabilities can get,” she said. “And it’s had a serious impact on voters who tried to vote in … the elections in March and May.”
Widespread Texas law is among the Measures passed in Republican-led states nationwide after the 2020 election added new restrictions on voting.
Among its provisions, SB 1 restricts support for read-only ballots to one voter, marking ballots to one voter, voter reading ballot instructions, and voter marking ballot instructions.
Groups including the Legal Defense and Education Fund of Asian Americans went to federal court and argued that SB 1’s voter support sections directly violated an order in 2018 ruled that similar limitations in the Texas election code at the time violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The court agreed and also directed the state to change the training program for election aides.
In addition, the court barred Texas from including such restrictions in the language of declaration an assistant must take an oath when assisting voters. SB 1 requires voter facilitators to fill out paperwork that discloses their relationship with voters and whether they will be compensated. It also required them to read an oath under penalty of perjury stating they did not “press or coerce” voters to choose them for support.
Debbie Chen of the Greater Houston Chinese American Foundation, which is a plaintiff in the 2018 lawsuit, said in a statement earlier this month that SB 1 made aides hesitate to answer questions from voters during the election. state primaries.
“Asian American voters with limited English often need to ask questions to understand the ballot and the voting process,” said Chen. “This is especially true for those who support them and have to translate the English ballot and the whole process in place.”
Snead said that while the court has ensured that voters with disabilities have some of the help they need, there are other limitations created by SB 1 that limit the accessibility of voters with disabilities. That includes a ban on driving through voting and restrictions on mail-in ballots, she said.
“We’ve stepped back a bit for people with disabilities to have some of the same access they had before SB 1,” she said. “There’s still work to be done. There are still limitations, but it’s not quite as bad as it used to be.”