Texas Democrats seek Supreme Court intervention in vote-by-mail lawsuit

by | Jun 16, 2020 | Policy, Voting

Texas Democrats announced Tuesday that they are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in litigation that would allow Texans to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The party is specifically asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling made by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month that blocked a lower court’s decision to allow all Texan voters to qualify as eligible to vote by mail. They are also asking for the court to review whether Texas’ vote-by-mail restrictions violate the 26th Amendment, an amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote for citizens who are at least 18 years of age.

“We started this case promising Texas voters that we’d never stop fighting for their right to vote. Today, we are continuing our promise by petitioning the United States Supreme Court to provide all Texans their free, fair, and equal right to vote,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, in a prepared statement. 

In May, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery sided with Texas Democrats and their plaintiffs, arguing that “younger voters bear a disproportionate burden because the age restrictions” in Texas election code, violating their 26th Amendment 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 earlier this month.

In Texas, voters must be out of the country, be disabled, be in jail but otherwise eligible, or be above the age of 65 to apply for a mail ballot. Multiple lawsuits have attempted to chip away at weaknesses in that section of election code in order to try and allow Texans to safely vote by mail. 

Another lawsuit by Texas Democrats and civil rights groups attempted to temporarily extend the Texas Election Code definition of “disability” to all registered voters, but that litigation was struck down by the Republican-stacked Texas Supreme Court last month, albeit with some clear legroom for allowing Texans to decide what they individually defined as a disability, suggesting a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach for Texans seeking to apply to vote by mail via claiming a disability. Another lawsuit, filed by the National Redistricting Foundation, is challenging four restrictions they say make it harder for Texans to vote by mail, including signature match requirements and paying for postage while early voting.

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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