Federal Judge Rules All Texas Voters Can Apply for Mail-In Ballots Amid Coronavirus

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that every voter in Texas can apply to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Tribune reports.

Under current law, only Texas who are disabled, over 65, are in jail, or have plans to be out of town can request an absentee ballot in the state but the Texas Democratic Party argued that the rules would put ineligible voters at risk of contracting the virus.

Judge Fred Biery agreed, ruling that the right to vote should not be elusively based on the whims of nature."

Biery said voters "now seek life without fear of pandemic, liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease, and the pursuit of happiness without undue restrictions."

Biery’s ruling covers all Texas voters "who seek to vote by mail to avoid transmission of the virus."

Texas AG fights ruling:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who opposes the absentee ballot expansion, vowed to appeal the ruling.

“The district court’s opinion ignores the evidence and disregards well-established law," Paxton said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he expects the case to end up in the Supreme Court.

“Here's the important deal, and that is we want people to vote based upon our current laws,” Abbott said. “We want them to be able to vote safely, and we want to do so in the way that does the most to reduce any potential fraud.”

Appeals court may overturn ruling:

Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, predicted that the ruling would be “reversed” on appeal.

“There is pending litigation in the Texas courts (including a case before the state supreme court), over whether the Texas statute in fact precludes someone from voting using the ‘disability’ excuse if one lacks immunity to the virus and fears contracting it. Ordinarily a federal court should abstain from deciding a constitutional issue if the issue might be resolved by statutory interpretation, and there is good reason to defer to the state supreme court’s own interpretation of the statute. This looks like the federal court jumping the gun,” he explained. “When one reads from the opening of the opinion, it is clear where the judge’s sympathy lies. My sympathy lies there too, and I think there’s a VERY STRONG case to be made under both statutory interpretation and constitutional law principles to get there, but this is not the kind of careful, cautious opinion that could potentially survive 5th Circuit review."


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