In July 2020, 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 unsafe in-person election practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit alleged that the state’s refusal to apply the statewide mask mandate to polling places and other practices—including its limited curbside voting options, reliance on repeat-touch voting machines, insufficient number of polling places, limited and inaccessible early voting locations, and stringent voter identification requirements—would result in unsafe voting conditions and increased risk of coronavirus transmission. The health risks and adverse impact of these policies placed an undue burden on the right to vote and were borne disproportionately by voters of color, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

The district court ultimately granted a preliminary injunction to apply the state’s mask mandate to polling places, though the decision was stayed on appeal. The parties agreed to dismiss the case after the election. Free Speech For People, the law firm of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, and the law firm of Lyons & Lyons represented the plaintiffs in this case.

This case challenged 2020 voting practices and restrictions that made voting more difficult during the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For our lawsuit challenging Texas’s SB1, passed in 2021, see Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott II.

Key Facts

Caption Mi Familia Vota v. Abbott
Court Western District Court of Texas
Docket No.


Status Case dismissed as moot
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


In July 2020, more than 3.4 million Americans had contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. By November 3, 2020—Election Day—more than 9.4 million Americans had contracted the disease, and more than 225,000 had died; many others experienced a debilitating disease that 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. Public health experts warned that a second wave of COVID-19 was likely to occur in the fall, coinciding with the November 2020 general elections; they were right. Due to existing socioeconomic and healthcare disparities, Black and Latino citizens were disproportionately affected by the pandemic and 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 all created serious risk to the lives and health of Texas voters on election day.

Through this lawsuit, plaintiffs sought injunctive relief to secure safe, constitutional voting practices for Texas during the pandemic, including:

  • Application of the statewide mask mandate to polling places
  • 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 named Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs as defendants.

The district court granted plaintiffs’ second motion for preliminary injunction to require that the state’s mask mandate be applied to polling places. However, this decision was stayed on appeal. After the election, the court dismissed the case as moot.

In 2021, Texas passed a new law, SB 1, that further erodes voters’ access to the polls and unlawfully and unconstitutionally burdens the right to vote in Texas. Free Speech For People and pro bono counsel Stoel Rives LLP and Lynes & Lyons LLP are representing Mi Familia Vota and several individual plaintiff to challenge SB 1. More information on that lawsuit can be found here.

Major Case Developments and Documents

Other Resources