Harris County Commissioners Court voted on Tuesday to join a lawsuit by Texas Democrats suing Gov. Greg Abbott to expand vote-by-mail in Texas.
The Democratic-led commissioners court voted 3-2 to join the lawsuit. The litigation seeks to allow all Texas voters to cast a mail-in ballot during the pandemic, arguing that absentee ballot restrictions in Texas violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the U.S. Constitution. Texas Democrats filed the suit against Abbott and the Texas Secretary of State in April.
In Texas, only voters 65 or older, those with a disability, those outside the country, or those in jail can vote by mail. Texas is one of four states that does not accept the fear of contracting COVID-19 as a reason for absentee voting, according to The Washington Post.
In May, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery sided with Texas Democrats in their lawsuit, arguing that “younger voters bear a disproportionate burden because [of] the age restrictions” in Texas election code, which the judge said violated their 26th Amendment rights during the pandemic. His decision allowed all Texans to be eligible to vote by mail, but it was temporarily blocked by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals the next day. That temporary stay was extended by the appeals court again in June.
Democrats attempted to leapfrog over the appeals court by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene before the July primary runoff elections, but the justices declined to do so until a decision by the lower appeals court was reached. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to revisit the case sometime this month.
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