Texas Democrats Sue Gov. Abbott to Expand Mail-In Voting During Coronavirus Pandemic

Texas Democrats Sue Gov. Abbott to Expand Mail-In Voting During Coronavirus Pandemic
Erik (HASH) Hersman via Flickr creative commons
The Texas Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to force the state to expand vote-by-mail access during the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, names Gov. Greg Abbott, Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen and Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.

Texas Democrats want to allow mail-in ballots for the May 2 and May 26 elections, which are likely to take place as residents wait out the worst of the outbreak, possibly under shelter-in-place orders.

"As we face the worst public health crisis in a century, neither Governor Abbott nor Secretary of State Hughs have issued concrete guidance to county election officials on whether voters can cast a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. "Republicans have opposed vote-by-mail without providing any credible justification."

Under current Texas rules, only a narrow strata of voters are allowed to use mail-in ballots. That means those casting ballots in upcoming contests will need to appear at polls despite warnings to avoid large gatherings.

In its suit, Texas Democrats argue that current law allows anyone whose health may be injured by voting in person to vote by mail. Abbott, a Republican, last month allowed municipalities to push back their May 2 elections to November, but hasn't appeared to warm to a vote-by-mail expansion.

Texas Republicans have long opposed expanded mail-in voting and the introduction of online registration and same-day voter registration. Critics argue the party worries lowering barriers to voting will boost turnout for low-income, minority and young voters, who tend to skew Democratic.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin held elections, despite health officials' urging to postpone. The conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court voted Monday to reject the Democratic Governor’s decision to postpone those contests.

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