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Congress can’t just rely on Big DOJ Energy to save our democracy

The Justice Department’s newly announced lawsuit over a Texas voter suppression bill isn’t enough. We need lawmakers to take action.

The Justice Department’s announcement Thursday that it’s suing Texas over restrictive voting legislation known as Senate Bill 1 was a welcome sight to me. 

To be transparent: I’m an admittedly desperate supporter of democracy who’s seen conservatives in Congress block measures that would affirm and expand access to the ballot, and who’s watched Democrats essentially twiddle their thumbs in response. And in lieu of voting rights protections that were top of my mind when I voted last November, I’m happy to see this ever-elusive, Big DOJ Energy under the Biden administration. 

“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.”

The Justice Department lawsuit specifically targets a provision in SB 1 that restricts assistance for voters who have a disability or are unable to read or write, as well as a provision requiring mail-in ballots to be rejected over mistakes that don’t concern a voters’ eligibility.

The law also bars officials from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications, adds new identification requirements for mail-in voting, prohibits drive-through and 24-hour voting locations, and limits early voting.

The Justice Department's complaint contends that the provisions on voter assistance and ballot mistakes will have a disparate impact on several groups of voters, including voters with limited English proficiency, voters with disabilities, elderly voters, members of the military deployed away from home, and American citizens residing outside the country

The state Democratic Party was quick to commend the Justice Department for taking action.

The lawsuit is “a crucial step towards protecting our democracy and protecting Texans’ freedom to vote from the ongoing anti-voter attacks by Republican leadership in our state,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement Friday.

He also issued an urgent call for Congress to step up. 

“Although we are grateful for today’s challenge to parts of S.B. 1, we cannot stop pushing for our legislators in Congress to act now,” he said. “We need our Senators to reform the filibuster and pass both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act immediately to save our democracy and to protect every American voter."

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Head over to The ReidOut Blog for more.