AUSTIN (KXAN) — The state of Texas is facing a second lawsuit over its new mobile voting ban.
On Tuesday, a group of young Texas Democrats, a senior citizen with disabilities and a Democratic Congressional candidate announced their lawsuit against the State of Texas aimed at overturning a new law they claim ends mobile voting sites and negatively impacts voter turnout in Texas.
Outside the federal courthouse near Republic Square, 96-year-old Terrell Blodgett joined representatives from Texas Young Democrats and Texas College Democrats as they announced their lawsuit to take down House Bill 1888.
Blodgett, who lives in an Austin retirement community, says he rarely misses a voting opportunity. His retirement home used to have mobile voting opportunities.
“For years, the county clerk sent a team out and we have a little room up on the fifth floor,” he said. “We went up there and voted.”
But this year, Blodgett says he missed voting in the constitutional amendment election because of the mobile voting ban that went into effect in September.
The legislation, filed by Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, requires temporary branch polling places to be open on the days that main early voting polling places are open. They must remain open for at least eight hours each day or three hours each day if the city or county clerk does not serve as the early voting clerk for the territory holding the election and the territory has fewer than 1,000 registered voters.
During a committee hearing in March, Bonnen said the most common example of where the use of mobile voting was abused was in school bond elections, where voting machines would be taken to school facilities.
“Typically, this would occur during school activities where it’s anticipated there would be a significant number of parents and teachers present who would be supportive of the bond measure,” Bonnen told legislators.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, supported the new changes under Bonnen’s bill for similar reasons.
“For example, a school district wanting voters to approve debt for new facilities might just park a mobile voting site outside of a high school football game on a Friday night,” James Quintero, who is with TPPF, wrote in an October opinion piece. “Or school officials might only put temporary polling places at friendly sites, such as school campuses. Both scenarios were alleged to have happened.”
Democratic Congressional candidate Mike Siegel, who is representing the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, said in 2018, Travis County had over 60 mobile voting locations that served senior centers and schools. He said the Travis County Clerk for Elections said it would cost the county $1 million to keep those polling places open under HB 1888. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir spoke to KXAN about this very topic back in October.
“This is going to impact thousands and thousands of voters and deny them effective access to the polls,” said Siegel.
The groups argue the law disadvantages people who face transportation hurdles, like youth and senior citizens.
“We are filing suit because we know a ban on mobile voting is a ban on voting,” said President of Texas Young Democrats Kolby Duhon. “The passage of HB1888 is the next step in the blatant attack on voting rights by the Republican Party in the state of Texas.”
Siegel said the Texas Democratic Party is committed to fighting against HB 1888 and hopes to get a court order before the next primary.
Siegel also told KXAN that this new lawsuit is complementary to but separate from another lawsuit aiming to overturn the bill. That lawsuit was filed by Texas Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Both of the cases are filed in federal court and are likely to be joined together, Siegel said.
“We are all on the same side,” Siegel added.