Federal judges in Georgia and Texas ruled against key provisions in two controversial election laws passed two years ago, while the Republican Party attempted to tighten voting rules after former President Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election.
In Texas, a provision of a law requiring that mail-in voters provide the same identification number they used when they registered to vote was struck down by U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez. He ruled the requirement violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act because it led to people being unable to cast ballots due to a matter irrelevant to whether they are registered.
The change was implemented in September 2021 and led to a mass number of mail-in ballot rejections in the 2022 midterms, leading to a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“This ruling sends a clear message that states may not impose unlawful and unnecessary requirements that disenfranchise eligible voters seeking to participate in our democracy,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement after the ruling, which came Thursday.
In Georgia, however, a Friday ruling led to much more mixed results from U.S. District Judge J.P. Boulee.
Boulee temporarily prohibited officials from enforcing penalties against people who provide food and water to voters waiting in line, as long as they are more than 150 feet from the building where voting is taking place. Additionally, he blocked part of a law that requires voters to provide their birthdate on absentee ballot envelopes.
However, Boulee rejected the group’s claims that certain restrictions imposed by the law deny voters with disabilities meaningful access to absentee voting.
That led both sides to declare victory. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said in a news release that the court upheld key portions of the state’s law.
“I am glad that the court upheld Georgia’s common sense rules banning ballot harvesting and securing absentee ballot drop boxes,” he said. “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.”
Still, civil rights groups who sued to block the law were cheered by the ruling: “Today’s decisions are important wins for our democracy and protecting access to the ballot box in Georgia,” said John Cusick, assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Both of the federal court rulings, though they come two years after passage of the bills, are likely to be appealed. Advocates said they hope they’re upheld.
“I think these rulings demonstrate that courts agree that these kinds of restrictions on mail ballots especially really have no place in our democracy,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, co-director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project.
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