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Federal judge orders preliminary injunction on portions of Texas' SB 1 voting law

The Harris County Attorney's Office said the portion of SB 1 in question not only made it illegal for Longoria to solicit mail-in ballots but also made it a crime.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — The Harris County Attorney’s Office is suing the state over the SB 1 voting law. They claim the law makes it a crime to solicit mail-in ballots.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on portions of the bill Friday night. The injunction prevents election officials from being prosecuted for encouraging mail-in ballots. 

The question at the center of this is whether a section of SB1 regarding mail-in ballots is constitutional. The law bans election officials from soliciting or encouraging mail-in voting.

"This is a fantastic result that will benefit voters across Texas,” said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee. “Voting by mail is an important part of elections in our country. It’s how many of our seniors, our veterans, our neighbors with disabilities, and many other folks participate in this democracy."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a Tweet that he will be appealing the injunction.

"Last night, a federal judge halted enforcement of key parts of SB1, which was created to make our elections safe & secure. I strongly disagree with this decision & will quickly appeal. SB1 is 100% constitutional. I will always fight for the election integrity Texans deserve," Paxton said.

The Harris County attorney is suing the state on behalf of election administrator Isabel Longoria, claiming the law violates her First Amendment rights.

The county attorney says not being able to openly encourage mail-in voting is causing confusion and an unusually high number of mail-in ballots being rejected.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office was also in court today defending the law as it’s written.

The deadline to apply to vote by mail is next Friday, February 18.

Read more of our coverage on SB 1.

That's not the only hurdle on mail-in ballots from SB 1. Under the new law, Texas voters are required to fill out a form of identification both on their mail-in ballot application and the carrier envelope for the ballot itself. That identification, which can be a driver’s license or ID number, or the last four digits of the voter’s social security number, must match what’s on their voter registration record.

"It's those kind of errors that are a direct result of SB 1, making it harder for voters to get through an already complex system," Longoria said.  

With the March 1 primary in Texas just weeks away, this poses a concern for election officials.

Harris County elections officials say about 13% of applications for mail-in ballots are still being rejected because of ID requirements.

RELATED: VERIFY: How to keep your mail-in ballot application from getting rejected in Texas

To make sure your mail-in ballot request isn't rejected, Longoria's best advice is to include your phone number and/or email in the application so they can call you in case there's something that needs to be corrected.

And if you have any questions about the process, you can always call Harris County Elections at 713-755-6965. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot for the primary is Feb. 18.

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