The Biden administration on Thursday sued Texas over new election laws that outlasted a summer of dramatic protests by Democrats, who remain unable in Congress to pass legislation they say is needed to counteract a year of Republicans adding restrictive voting measures nationwide.
The lawsuit does not go after the entirety of a sweeping bill signed in September by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, which already has some of the nation's toughest voting rules. Instead, the challenge filed in a San Antonio federal court targets provisions surrounding mail-in voting requirements and voter assistance, which the Justice Department argues violate federal civil rights protections.
It now puts two of the Texas GOP's biggest conservative victories this year in court against the federal government, as the Justice Department is simultaneously trying to stop a new Texas law that has banned most abortions since September.
Opponents of the Texas law known as Senate Bill 1 had already sued the state, accusing Republicans of setting out to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters. The bill specifically targets Democratic strongholds, and was followed by Abbott weeks later signing new voting maps that fortify the GOP's slipping dominance amid the state's explosive growth.
Abbott and other Texas Republicans say the changes provide safeguards against voter fraud.
“Biden is coming after Texas for SB1, our recently enacted election integrity law,” Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. "It’s a great and a much-needed bill. Ensuring Texas has safe, secure, and transparent elections is a top priority of mine. I will see you in court, Biden!"
Under the new Texas law, people assisting voters who need help completing their ballot must take a longer oath that now includes acknowledging a penalty of perjury. It also removes old language about answering voters' questions, which opponents say will harm voters with disabilities.
Mail-in ballots must also now include a driver's license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number, which the Justice Department says raises the chances of ballots being wrongly rejected and excluding some eligible voters.
Texas is among at least 18 states that have enacted new voting restrictions since the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The laws are part of a national GOP campaign, including in Florida, Georgia and Arizona, to tighten voting laws in the name of security.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.