Federal appeals court temporarily blocks vote-by-mail for Texans fearing COVID-19

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A federal appeals court on Wednesday temporarily blocked the expansion of vote-by-mail in Texas.

For several weeks, Texas Democrats and civil rights groups have engaged in back and forth legal battles trying to allow all Texans who fear COVID-19 exposure to be able to apply for mail-in ballots in upcoming elections. Under Texas law, only voters who are disabled, outside the country, or 65 and older can vote by mail.

The ruling Wednesday comes a day after a federal judge allowed the expansion of vote-by-mail, which some counties had already begun to prepare for by appropriating funding for mail ballots or by accepting mail-in ballot applications where voters cite fear of the virus as a disability. 

The rapid-fire litigation has come from multiple angles. In March, Texas Democrats sued the state to allow voters to cite fear of COVID-19 as a disability. The lawsuit saw success in lower courts until reaching the Texas Supreme Court, where prior rulings were put on hold and the litigation is pending. 

Another lawsuit filed in federal court by the National Redistricting Foundation attempted to do away with the age restriction in mail-in ballots. Wednesday’s ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was made in response to that lawsuit. 

Photo: SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

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