UCLA’s Voting Rights Project scored major court victories in Texas and Pennsylvania in its fight against attempts to suppress the voice of voters in this critical election year.
In Texas, a federal judge blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s attempt to limit ballot drop boxes to one per county. The Voting Rights Project, which is part of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, partnered with the League of United Latin American Citizens to sue Abbott.
Chad Dunn, the director of litigation for the Voting Rights Project, argued the case in federal court on Oct. 8. The following day, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman struck down Abbott’s order, finding that it resulted in substantial confusion, created burdens on disabled, elderly and minority voters, and “likely violates their fundamental right to vote.”
To support the case, Matt Barreto, faculty director of the project, co-authored an expert report with research fellow Michael Rios, who earned his master’s in public policy in 2020 from UCLA Luskin, and political science doctoral students Chelsea Jones and Marcel Roman. They documented that Abbott’s rule would force some voters to travel more than 90 miles round-trip to a downtown ballot return center, as opposed to a satellite county office within five miles.
The research also found that many voters preferred using official drop-off sites rather than mailing in their ballots due to concerns about U.S. Postal Service slowdowns.
In Pennsylvania, a U.S. district court dismissed a lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign that sought to place several restrictions on voting, including prohibiting voters from submitting ballots in drop boxes. The Voting Rights Project submitted an expert report documenting the importance of ballot drop boxes and the need to prevent voter intimidation. In the event these rulings are appealed, The project is ready to file an appellate brief to defend every citizen’s right to vote.