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Texas Supreme Court Stops Expanded Vote-By-Mail, At Least for Now

A rejected mail-in ballot application from 2017's Dallas City Council election.EXPAND
A rejected mail-in ballot application from 2017's Dallas City Council election.
Stephen Young

Mail-in voting, at least for the time being, is once again limited to Texans over the age of 65, those with physical disabilities or illnesses and those who will be out of the county in which they are registered to vote for the duration of early voting and Election Day.

Friday night, the Texas Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling expanding vote-by-mail to all who want it during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, agreeing with the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the decision should remain on ice until his appeal is heard.

Paxton argues that the fear of contracting the novel coronavirus does not amount to a disability under state law.

“Protecting the integrity of elections is one of my most important and sacred obligations. The Legislature has carefully limited who may and may not vote by mail," Paxton said. "The Travis County trial court’s decision to allow everyone to vote by mail is contrary to state law and will be reversed on appeal. I am pleased that today the Texas Supreme Court confirmed that my office may continue to prosecute voter fraud and issue guidance on mail-in ballots while that appeal plays out."

The Texas Democratic Party sued the state last month so that voters could avoid polling places, should they choose to do so, during July's primary runoffs and, potentially, November's general election.

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Friday night, the party accused Texas' highest civil court of putting voters' lives at risk.

“Voters should have the ability to vote by mail during a pandemic if they feel their health is in danger. Every single justice who ruled today should be ashamed of themselves. They are the new Republican death panel," said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa. “We will continue to fight like hell to protect every eligible Texan’s right to vote and have their voices heard by their government."

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to be heard by the Texas Supreme Court on May 20.

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