Skip to main content

The Brief: Another state voting law, another legal challenge

Texas voting law requires language interpreters helping someone at the ballot box to also be a registered voter in the same county. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is taking up a legal challenge this morning over it.

Campaign signs lined the edge of the Farmersville City Hall property on the first day of early voting on Oct. 24, 2016.

Happy Thursday! Thanks for reading The Brief, The Texas Tribune’s daily newsletter that prepares you for the day ahead. If you have friends who might want to join our list, please forward this email. They can click here to sign up. – BB

What you need to know

Did you know Texas voting law requires language interpreters helping someone at the ballot box to also be a registered voter in the same county they're providing help? Well, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is taking up a legal challenge this morning over it. Here's what you need to know

• What jump-started the legal challenge? A judge ruled last year that the state law violated the federal Voting Rights Act, under which any voter needing assistance because of visual impairments, disabilities or literacy skills can be helped in casting a ballot by the person of their choice, so long as it's not an employer or union leader. The law has been on hold since then.

But here's the catch — there's a difference between "interpreter" and "assistor." A provision in the state election code lets voters select an "interpreter" to "accompany the voter to the voting station for the purpose of translating the ballot to the voter." But a separate provision says "assistors" can help voters read or mark a ballot, occurring "while the person is in the presence of the voter's ballot." Under the law, an interpreter must be registered to vote in the same county, while assistors don't have to be. 

The case could come down to a question of standing, if Texas has its way. The attorney general’s office, representing the state in the lawsuit, declined to comment on pending litigation. But state attorneys argued that the lower court incorrectly ruled to allow the lawsuit to continue before there was a judgment in the lower court. 

Other stories we're watching today:

• Recently ousted FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee today. Watch a livestream online here, and follow Texas Tribune reporter Abby Livingston for updates. 

Tribune today

• Craft brewers want Gov. Greg Abbott to veto a bill that would put limits on some regulatory relief that benefits them. 

• A Texas court isn't getting involved in a dispute over Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's securities fraud case. 

• The city of Dallas is joining the fight against the new immigration law in Texas. 

• A Texas congressman announced he's started drafting articles of impeachment against President Trump. 

• The American Immigration Lawyers Association is ditching its convention in Texas and moving it to another state over the state's new immigration law. 

• Scrap the new voter ID law, the state's legal opponents told a federal judge

• A Texas court halted the execution of a man convicted in the murder of a McKinney real estate agent in 2007. 

• A state lawmaker was arrested by Dallas police for allegedly driving while intoxicated.  

News from home

Register for the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival! Join us for three days of the best conversations in politics and public policy, Sept. 22-24. Register here.

What we're reading

Links below lead to outside websites; we've noted paywall content with $.

Comey claims Trump asked him to 'lift the cloud' of the Russia probe, Politico 

Oil price falls 5 percent on supply data, Midland Reporter-Telegram

2 solar farms in the works for McLennan County, Waco Tribune-Herald

Turner remains on sidelines as cities rush to sue over SB 4, The Houston Chronicle ($)

SXSW organizers reject senators' call to leave Texas because of 'sanctuary cities' ban, Austin American-Statesman ($)

California transplants helping conservatives find the 'Right' Texas home, San Antonio Express-News ($)

For your calendar 

On June 10: Join us in Austin for a taping of KLRU's Overheard with David Brown, former Dallas police chief, and Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith.

Photo of the day

Colorado-based Oskar Blues, maker of Dale's Pale Ale, is opposed to a bill that would require it to pay what critics call an "extortion fee" to beer distributors. Photo by Erika Rich. See more photos on our Instagram account

Quote to note

"Last night, I disappointed my family, my constituents and my supporters. I disappointed myself. I am so grateful that no one was hurt.”

— State Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, about her arrest Tuesday night on a DWI charge in Dallas

The Brief is written and compiled by your morning news baristas, Bobby Blanchard and Cassi Pollock. If you have feedback or questions, please email

As a nonprofit newsroom, we count on readers like you to help power newsletters like this. Did you like what you read today? Show your appreciation by becoming a member or making a donation today.

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Yes, I'll donate today

Explore related story topics