Voters waited in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio during the 2018 midterms. Democrats argue that people should be allowed to avoid crowded polling places during the pandemic.
A Texas judge said Wednesday he will ease the state's voting restrictions, allowing people concerned about COVID-19 to send in ballots by mail.
Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak told attorneys in a case to expand voting by mail during the pandemic that he'll file a temporary injunction allowing the move under state election rules that allow people with disabilities to request absentee ballots.
The ruling is a victory for Democrats and progressive groups, who argue that Texas needs to expand mail-in voting to protect public safety. The state, currently under the leadership of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, is almost certain to appeal.
Texas currently has some of the nation's strictest vote-by-mail rules. Only people over 65, people with disabilities and those outside the country or in jail are eligible for mail-in ballots.
“Texas voters aged 65 and up already have the benefit of no-excuse vote by mail, and today’s ruling extends that benefit to all voters at risk of contracting COVID-19 during this pandemic," said Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas. "This is a no-brainer: no one should be forced to choose between their health and their right to vote.”
In a statement released Wednesday
, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state's disability rule was meant to apply to people who are physically incapacitated, not those fearful about contracting a disease.
Legal fights over mail-in voting have percolated throughout the country as the pandemic drags on. Governors in Nebraska and New Hampshire both said they plan to allow mail-in ballots for elections through the end of the year.
President Trump made recent headlines
by urging GOP leaders to fight against mail-in voting because it "doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
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