FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, NOV 26TH 2019
Former Austin City Manager Blodgett, College and Young Democrats are Plaintiffs
AUSTIN—Local civil rights attorney and candidate for United States Congress Mike Siegel announced Tuesday morning the filing of a federal voting rights lawsuit against the state of Texas over the mobile voting ban enacted following the enactment of House Bill 1888, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature and signed in to law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott this past spring.
Siegel, counsel for former Austin Assistant City Manager Terrell Blodgett, the lead plaintiff in the suit, said HB 1888 violates Blodgett’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other plaintiffs in the suit, the Texas College Democrats and Texas Young Democrats, are pursuing claims under the Voting Rights Act and the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution alleging that the new law discriminates against young voters.
“Until the recent constitutional amendment election, Mr. Blodgett, a World War II Army veteran, has never missed an election,” Siegel said. “HB 1888 banned mobile voting locations that are not open for the duration of early voting, and it killed the temporary polling place at Mr. Blodgett’s retirement community where he voted for years,” Siegel said.
At 96, Blodgett no longer drives a car, and was unable to vote in the November 2019 constitutional amendment election.
Siegel said HB 1888 impacts two of Texas’ most vulnerable voting-age populations: young people and senior citizens.
“It should not be too much to ask of our government that they provide reasonable accommodation for men like Mr. Blodgett and those of his generation to be able to vote at temporary early polling places like the one that used to be here at Westminster,” Siegel said during his press conference.
“As a country, we complain that young people aren’t active participants in our democracy. Yet, with HB 1888, we killed temporary polling places at dozens of colleges, junior colleges, trade schools, and universities across the state with one stroke of the pen,” Siegel said.
“This disproportionately impacts college students who are used to voting on their campuses, particularly students at the state’s many historically black colleges and universities, like Prairie View A&M in my district,” Siegel said.
The Texas Young Democrats and Texas College Democrats join Blodgett in the suit representing thousands of their young and student members, Siegel said.
The complaint was filed following Tuesday morning’s press conference in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin.
Siegel is a former Austin Assistant City Attorney. He is a candidate in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Congress in Texas’ 10th Congressional District, having nearly defeated incumbent Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Westlake Hills) in the November 2018 general election.
House Bill 1888 mandated that any temporary polling places conform to specific standards, specifically being open for eight hours per day, and be open throughout the early voting period.
Prior to HB 1888, many urban and rural counties had temporary polling places at colleges and universities, retirement centers, nursing homes, community centers, and even grocery stores. These locations provided voters an easy and quick way to vote during early voting.
After HB 1888, counties cannot bear the cost to keep temporary polling places open through the duration of the early voting period, with some urban counties estimating the cost to do so for staffing alone would cost over $1 million.
Prior to HB 1888, people like Mr. Blodgett had become accustomed to using temporary polling places opened by the county near their home. In the case of Mr. Blodgett, it was actually at his home—an assisted living center located in Austin.
HB 1888 impacts rural populations where temporary polling places helped people who may have a long way to travel on their way to election day vote more conveniently at a temporary early location.
Temporary polling places were rarely open the duration of the election in rural counties or at major universities or junior colleges where they were set up.
HB 1888 costs counties more money to make voting easily accessible to the public.