Here what the judge had to say…
On Friday night, a Texas judge prevented part of a new state election law – that would criminalize soliciting mail-in ballots – from going into effect, noting it violates free speech.
The ruling by Federal District Judge Xavier Rodriguez of San Antonia emphasized Harris County officials had a right, under free speech, to inform voters about mail-in voting.
The ruling comes only three days before early voting will begin on March 1 for the statewide primary.
According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, the provision in the contentious SB 1 voting bill was a reactive measure after a Harris County official attempted mailing out absentee voter applications to all voters in the county.
Harris County elections administrator Isabel Longoria and a volunteer deputy registrar from Travis and Williamson County, Cathy Morgan, initiated the suit.
In court testimony, Longoria asserted that the $10,000 fine or the threat of jail time resulted in her feeling she couldn’t freely speak to voters about their rights to request a mail-in ballot.
Making her testimony in court, Longoria said, “I stop mid-sentence sometimes at these town halls and say, ‘The law prevents me from saying much more. If you have a question, good luck and call us.”
But the state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office defended the bill, saying the state had the right to regulate the communication made to voters by county officials about absentee ballots. The judge disagreed, calling the argument “unavailing” as the plaintiffs weren’t state employees.
In his ruling, Rodrigeuz said, “The State’s assertion that it is entitled to regulate Longoria and Morgan’s official communications as their employer is wholly unavailing,” but kept the rest of the SB 1 bill intact.