Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Texas judge issues a temporary injunction expanding voting by mail due to COVID-19 fears

Facing elections this summer and fall, voting rights advocates are seeking to expand the opportunity to vote by mail. (Photo Courtesy: Brendan C/Flickr)

According to a statement issued by Common Cause Texas, Judge Tim Sulak in Travis County’s 353rd District Court has issued a temporary injunction allowing all voters fearful of contracting coronavirus at a polling place to qualify to vote by mail by using a disability clause.

However, prior to the ruling Attorney General Ken Paxton put out this press release publicizing a letter he sent to House Elections Chair Stephanie Klick basically saying any Texan who attempts to vote by mail using the disability clause due to fear of COVID-19 would be in violation of the law and subject to prosecution.
“Mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in-person as a result. Fear of contracting COVID-19 does not amount to a sickness or physical condition as required by the Legislature,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The integrity of our democratic election process must be maintained, and law established by our Legislature must be followed consistently.”
Paxton’s suggestion is a violation of the election laws reflects the confusion which has existed regarding this issue. Voting rights advocates sought clarification by the court.
“Clearly, no one knows what this pandemic will look like in July or November and the smart thing to do is to interpret the law in a way that prioritizes public health and protects voting rights,” Guitierrez stated.
Although even Common Cause expects this ruling to be appealed, the Texas Democrats say they are ready to fight the GOP.
“The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy,” Gilberto Hinojosa, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party stated. “As public health officials began speaking to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, the Texas Democratic Party knew our elections here in Texas needed to be modified.

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