A federal judge issued an order Friday night banning Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 1 order restricting counties to one place to send mail. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said the Abbott order placed an unacceptable burden on the voting rights of elderly and disabled Texans, who are likely to ask for ballots to be sent in advance and delivered to ensure their counting.
Those voters are also particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the judge said.
“By limiting ballot return centers to one per district, older and disabled voters living in the largest and most populous counties in Texas must travel longer distances to overcrowded ballot return centers, where they will be at increased risk of coronavirus infection. they would exercise their right to vote and take it, ”Pitman wrote.
“By forcing absent voters to risk contracting a deadly disease in order to personally return their ballots or deprive them of their voting rights if (the postal service) does not deliver their ballots on time, the October 1 order places a burden on the already vulnerable electorate,” he said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office defended Abbott’s order, is likely to appeal the decision. Gilberto Hinojosa, president of the Texas Democratic Party, said the verdict thwarted Abbott’s attempt to suppress voters.
“Judge Pitman’s order was governed by generally accepted law and did not allow the governor to draw up election rules after the election began,” Hinojosa said. “To be honest, it should be a shock to all of us that such a solution is needed at all.” Abbott’s order arrived the same day four checkpoints opened in Travis County, three of which were to be closed the next day, leaving only space on 5501 Airport Boulevard last week.
Civic and electoral groups and several voters sued, which led to a two-hour hearing on Thursday afternoon in front of Pitman. Speaking before a judge, Abbott’s lawyers disputed claims that his order restricted voting rights, saying the governor strengthened voters during the pandemic.
Abbott’s first election-related verdict, from July 27, added six days of early voting and suspended state law that allows voters to send ballots only on election day, Judge Attorney Eric Hudson said.
In fact, Abbott gave voters nearly 40 extra days to manually deliver ballots, Hudson argued, adding that on Oct. 1, Abbott clarified his previous directive by limiting constituencies to one ballot box where observers should be allowed to observe the vote. sending voters by mail.
Abbott said his order was aimed at ensuring election integrity, but civil rights group lawyers told Pitman that the order had the opposite effect because voters who manually submit their ballots must sign the register and show a photo ID, steps, which they avoid throwing an envelope in the mail.