Free Speech For People filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas on behalf of Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP, and individual Texas voters challenging Texas’s in-person election practices, which are unsafe, high risk, and unequal during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that the state’s reliance on repeat-touch voting machines, its insufficient number of polling places, its limited and inaccessible early voting locations, and its voter identification requirements will result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission. The health risks and adverse impact of these policies will place an undue burden on the right to vote and be borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Free Speech For People, the law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and the law firm of Lyons & Lyons represent the plaintiffs in this case.

Key Facts

Caption Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott
Court U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Docket No.

20-50793

Status Order Issued, Case Remanded
Plaintiffs Mi Familia Vota, Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and an individual Texas voter
Defendants Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, and Ruth Hughs, Texas Secretary of State

Background

More than 6.7 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. 198,000 have died; many others experienced a debilitating disease that has resulted in hospital stays and lengthy recovery times, and long-term complications. In Texas, the pandemic surged throughout the summer, with a significant rise in the number of cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities. Texas continues to report thousands of new cases every day, and more than 15,000 Texans have died. Public health experts warn that a second wave of COVID-19 is likely to occur in the fall, coinciding with the November 2020 general elections, and may be worse than the first. Due to existing socioeconomic and healthcare disparities, Black and Latino citizens have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness, resulting in higher rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death.  Crowded conditions, limited polling place locations, no mask mandate, and frequently touched voting machines will all create serious risk to the lives and health of Texas voters on election day

Through this lawsuit, plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to secure safe, constitutional voting practices for Texas. Specifically, the complaint seeks:

  • Suspension of Texas law that limits mobile early voting, to enable counties to bring early voting to rural and mobility-limited populations in a safe manner.
  • Extension of the duration of early voting
  • Prohibition of any reduction in the number of polling places in Texas
  • The opening of additional polling places in counties where lines typically exceed 20 minutes
  • The option of voting on hand-marked paper ballots, while maintaining working machines that are thoroughly disinfected after each vote to protect voters who need to use these machines to vote.
  • Implementation of social distancing at all polling places

Free Speech For People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, and Lyons & Lyons LLP represent the plaintiffs pro bono. The lawsuit names Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs as defendants.

Major Case Developments and Documents

Other Resources