Federal judges in Texas and Georgia have invalidated key provisions of two contentious election laws enacted two years ago during efforts by the Republican Party to tighten voting regulations in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
In Texas, U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez struck down a provision of a law that mandated mail-in voters to submit the same identification number they used during voter registration.
The judge ruled that this requirement violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act because it needlessly obstructed eligible voters from casting ballots based on a matter unrelated to their voter registration. This change, which went into effect in September 2021, led to a surge in rejected mail-in ballots during the 2022 midterms, prompting a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke commented on the ruling, saying, “This decision conveys a clear message that states cannot enforce unlawful and unnecessary demands that disenfranchise eligible voters seeking to participate in our democracy.” The ruling was issued on Thursday.
In Georgia, a ruling issued on Friday by U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee yielded more mixed outcomes. Boulee temporarily halted the imposition of penalties on individuals who offer food and water to voters waiting in line, as long as they remain more than 150 feet away from the voting location.
Additionally, he blocked a portion of a law that required voters to include their birthdates on absentee ballot envelopes. However, Boulee rejected the argument that the law’s specific restrictions impede voters with disabilities from effectively accessing absentee voting.
This led to both sides claiming victory. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, stated in a press release that the court upheld crucial aspects of the state’s law. He emphasized, “Georgia’s voting system is accessible to all voters, with multiple options for voters to choose how they want to exercise their right to vote.”
Nevertheless, civil rights groups that challenged the law found solace in the ruling. John Cusick, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, remarked, “Today’s decisions are significant victories for our democracy and for safeguarding access to the ballot box in Georgia.”
While both federal court decisions are issued two years after the laws were enacted, they are likely to face appeals. Advocates express their hope for the rulings to stand, with Sophia Lin Lakin, co-director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, noting that the rulings highlight that such restrictions on mail-in ballots have no place in a democratic society.