Voters waited in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio during the 2018 midterms. Voting rights groups argue that people should be allowed to avoid crowded polling places during the pandemic.
The Texas Democratic Party on Tuesday said it asked the nation's highest court to overturn a recent U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ban on allowing voters under the age of 65 to vote by mail rather than risk COVID-19 infection.
Voting rights groups and the Texas Democrats have sued in both state and federal court to expand voting by mail, arguing that casting ballots in person constitutes a health risk during the pandemic. Under current rules, only Texans who are out of state, have a disability or are over 65 can vote by mail — a limitation the groups say amounts to age discrimination.
Republican state officials, including Attorney General Ken Paxton, have fought those efforts, alleging without supporting data that wider use of mail-in voting would lead to a spike in voter fraud.
The 5th Circuit appeals panel sided with Paxton, handing the Democrats and voting rights groups a defeat. The Texas Supreme Court also shut the door on the separate state case.
On a call with reporters, San Antonio nurse Brenda Li Garcia, one of the federal case's plaintiffs, said the court should act now because crowded polling sites pose a public health risk.
"In-person voting provides the perfect conditions for this virus to spread," she said.
Texas Democrats made two separate filings with the Supreme Court, one of which asks for a stay of the 5th Circuit's ruling in time for absentee ballots to be expanded for the June 14 runoff election.
The second filing asks the justices to take up the merits of the case, which could be decided in time for the November general election, said Chad Dunn, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
While conservative groups have funded multiple studies to throw back the curtain on voter fraud, Dunn said research has never shown it to be widespread — or that it goes unpunished.
"It's the bogeyman under the table that's never found," he added.
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