Texas Supreme Court Puts Hold on Expansion of Mail-In Voting During Pandemic

Flickr / Erik (HASH) Hersman
The Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court on Friday temporarily blocked an expansion of voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state's high court put a hold on a state appeals court ruling that permitted voters who lack immunity to the coronavirus — and therefore face infection risks — to request absentee ballots instead of showing up at potentially crowded polls.

The Supreme Court didn't weigh in on the merits of the case, just whether voters should be able to request mail-in ballots while the legal battle plays out. It has set oral arguments for Wednesday to decide whether the appeals court ruling should stand.

The ruling is the latest turn in a legal battle playing out in both state and federal courts over how the state's narrow absentee voting rules should be applied during the pandemic.

Paxton, a Republican, took a victory lap Friday, issuing a news release saying the lower court ruing was wrong and will be reversed on appeal.

"Protecting the integrity of elections is one of my most important and sacred obligations," he said in the statement.

Paxton has argued that lack of immunity to the coronavirus doesn't qualify as a disability, one of the requirements for someone to request a mail-in ballot. Progressive groups maintain that the AG's opposition is more about deterring potential Democratic voters, including poor people and minorities.

In a statement, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa pledged to continue the fight in court.

“This is a dark day for our democracy," he said. "The Republican Texas Supreme Court is wrong to force the people of Texas to choose between their health and their right to vote. They would have Texans die, just so they can hold on to power."

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