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Texas likely faces multiple lawsuits if the Legislature passes new voter restrictions during special session


Voters waiting in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • Voters waiting in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio.
Multiple voting-rights groups are preparing lawsuits in anticipation that Texas lawmakers will revive a widely decried voter-restriction bill that died during the last legislative session, a top voting-rights expert said.

"I do know for a fact that lawsuits are being planned and that teams are being staffed right now," said Henry Flores, a St. Mary University's political science professor emeritus who's served as an expert witness in dozens of voting-rights cases. "The state of Texas is going to be spending a lot of money defending itself in court."

Gov. Greg Abbott this week set a special session of the Texas Legislature that will begin July 8. Although the Republican governor didn't mention Senate Bill 7 during his announcement, he's previously said he wants the contentious voting bill passed during the special session.

Earlier this month, Abbott vetoed salaries for state lawmakers as a punishment after Democrats walked out before a final vote could be made on the sweeping voter bill late in the session. The measure was one of Abbott's legislative priorities.

Flores, who's participated in roughly 50 voting rights cases including several tried before the U.S. Supreme Court, said he expects a flurry of suits nationwide as Republican-led legislatures work to pass bills limiting poll access.

Backers of the bills, including Texas Republicans, argue the legislation is meant to curb voter fraud. However, voting-rights groups argue they measures are meant to suppress the votes of minorities, young people and others likely to vote for Democratic candidates.

Flores declined to name the organizations preparing lawsuits in Texas, saying it was premature to release those details.

However, he said a suit filed this week by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Voto Latino over a separate voting bill passed by the Texas Lege this session is a likely harbinger of what's to come.

That GOP-backed measure adds restrictions to the type of addresses that can be used when voters register and requires proof of residence for someone who uses a P.O. Box.

"That suit might be the shot across the bow as far as the legal challenges go," Flores said.

Legal experts have also warned that Texas is likely to face pricy court battles over a spate of culture war-focused bills passed during the last session by the Republican-dominated Legislature. Those include a near complete ban on abortion and rules dictating how public school teachers can discuss race.

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