Politics

Young Democrats And Former Austin Official Sue Over Texas’ Ban On Temporary Voting Locations

This is the second lawsuit challenging Texas House Bill 1888, which was passed by the Republican-led Legislature earlier this year.

Former Austin Assistant City Manager Terrell Blodgett, front, says he was unable to vote in the last election because the temporary polling location at his senior living community was forced to close.

The Texas Secretary of State is being sued over a new law banning local governments from setting up temporary polling locations – or any polling location that isn’t open throughout all of early voting.

This is the second lawsuit challenging Texas House Bill 1888, which was passed by the Republican-led Legislature earlier this year.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin. It is led by former Austin Assistant City Manager Terrell Blodgett, Texas Young Democrats (TYD) and Texas College Democrats.

“We are here to tear down an obstacle to the right to vote,” Mike Siegel, who is representing Blodgett, said during a press conference Tuesday.

Siegel, a civil rights attorney who is running for Congress against Republican incumbent Michael McCaul, said the law “suppresses the vote of young people, of seniors, of people with disabilities” and people without access to transportation.

Blodgett, who is 96, said he has almost never missed an election – that is until HB 1888 went into effect. Because of the law, the mobile polling site at Westminster, the senior living community he lives in, was forced to close. Blodgett said he has relied on that polling location and was unable to vote because he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t use public transportation.

“I would have had to climb on this bus and go over from the house to the library and vote because we didn’t have the facility or the voting machines there at Westminster,” he said.

When asked, Blodgett said he thinks Republicans in the Legislature passed the law for political reasons.

“I think they did it to suppress the Democratic vote,” he said.

Young voter groups affiliated with the Democratic Party said they also think the ban is political – and specifically aimed at keeping young people from voting.

Mayra Mendoza, executive vice president for the Texas Young Democrats, says the ban on temporary polling locations is aimed at preventing young voters from voting.

Mayra Mendoza, executive vice president for the Texas Young Democrats, said she thinks it’s a direct response to the 2018 election. During that election, turnout among Texas voters under 30 tripled compared to the previous midterm election.

“I have no doubt that it has everything to do with a legitimate fear that we will replicate such a massive young turnout,” Mendoza said.

According to the lawsuit, many young voters were unable to vote in 2019 because they lacked access to transportation.

“For example, at three different college campuses in Austin where there are TYD constituents — Huston-Tillotson University, St. Edward’s University and Austin Community College — mobile voting locations that had been available and used by TYD voters in the 2018 elections were no longer available for use in the November 2019 election,” plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

Last month, the Texas Democratic Party also sued over the ban, citing similar concerns.

Plaintiffs in the latest suit are asking the court to halt the law before early voting starts in February.

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