Today, the Supreme Court issued a denial to overrule the lower court’s stay and hear the Texas Democratic Party’s (TDP) suit to expand mail-in-voting in Texas.
The TDP filed two lawsuits, one in state court and one in federal, to expand mail-in-voting to all registered voters out of concern for spreading the coronavirus at the polls.
At the state level, the Texas Supreme Court ultimately ruled against the plaintiffs, finding that statute does not allow for such expansion based on the definition of “disability” in state law. The state suit was one based on statute, while the federal suit is aimed at whether the Constitution, through the 26th Amendment, requires states to allow all voters to vote-by-mail.
The latter is still being reviewed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued a stay on the lower court’s ruling that all Texas voters be allowed to vote-by-mail.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa stated, “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court did not weigh in now and provide needed relief and clarity for voters ahead of the primary runoff. Now, thanks to Republican Governor Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the all-Republican membership of the Texas Supreme Court, only some voters will be permitted to vote by mail during this primary election.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reacted, saying, “I applaud the Supreme Court for following the law and refusing to order mail-in balloting that the Texas Legislature has forbidden. Universal mail-in ballots, which are notoriously vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters,” said Attorney General Paxton. “State election officials have many options available to safely and securely hold elections without risking widespread fraud. My office will continue to fight for safe, free and fair elections.”
Justices Alito and Sotomayor opted to pass on hearing the case, citing the “novel” framing of the matter.
Establishing an expanded mail-in-ballot program would require far more than a court order. States like Colorado and Washington have taken years to implement their expanded mail-in-ballot programs and the variation between county election boards would be a steep hill to climb logistically in such a short time.
Currently in Texas, only voters 65 years or older who have a disability that prevents them from safely attending the polls or are out of the country during the election may vote absentee.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include Attorney General Ken Paxton’s statement.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.