Appeals court backs Abbott’s voter suppression

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A federal appeals court has overturned the orders of a lower court blocking Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to limit mail ballot drop off locations. 

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman temporarily blocked the governor’s order.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision Monday, on the eve of the beginning of early voting in Texas.

Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan, a Trump-appointed judge, argued that Abbott’s order did not prevent anyone from voting and that voters still had “numerous avenues for casting their absentee ballots.” 

Circuit Judge James Ho, another Trump appointee, issued a concurring opinion but tsked Abbott for acting “unilaterally” in changing Texas law during an election. 

“Under the Constitution, it is the state legislature — not the governor or federal judges — that is authorized to establish the rules that govern the election of each state’s [federal elections],” Ho wrote.

Monday’s ruling was hailed by Texas Attorney Ken Paxton, who is currently in the middle of a burgeoning bribery scandal. In a statement on Tuesday, Paxton said his office would continue to “protect the integrity of Texas elections” and “combat voter fraud.”

Reacting to the ruling, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa called Texas Republicans cowards and said it was another attempt to suppress the vote. 

“It won’t work,” Hinojosa said. “Right now, millions of Texans across the state are doing everything in their power to make their voices heard. This terrifies Texas Republicans because they know Texans are fed up.”

Today’s ruling means counties, including the state’s largest, will only have one physical drop-off location for absentee ballots. Abbott ordered it so earlier this month under the guise of election security. There is no evidence of systemic voter fraud in Texas. 

The last day of early voting is Friday, October 30, 2020. Friday, October 23, 2020, is the last day to apply for a ballot by mail.

Photo: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

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