Texas Democrats ask Supreme Court to expand mail-in voting access

Texas Democrats ask Supreme Court to expand mail-in voting access

Texas Democrats asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to review its efforts to expand mail-in voting eligibility to all voters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Democratic Party and several Texas voters told the justices that requiring widespread in-person voting poses health risks as the state’s July primary runoff and November elections draw near.

“[M]illions of Texas voters will face the agonizing choice of either risking their health (and the health of others) to vote in person or relinquishing their right to cast a ballot in two critical elections” if the Supreme Court doesn’t act, the litigants argued.

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Under current Texas rules, only voters with a “qualifying reason” — advanced age, disability, incarceration or planned travel — can mail in ballots.

The Supreme Court petition is the latest development in a months-long push to expand the definition of “disability” to include those with concerns about the potential health implications of in-person voting, which has sparked months of fighting in both Texas state and federal courts.

Texas Democrats told the justices that by limiting the right to cast mail-in ballots to those 65 and older, the Texas rules violate the 26th Amendment’s bar on abridging the right to vote based on age.

The Tuesday filing comes just weeks after a federal appeals court halted a Texas-based federal trial court order that would have required election officials to broaden mail-in voting eligibility.

In issuing a stay of the lower court order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit appeared sympathetic to the claim by Republican officials in Texas that mail-in voting is especially susceptible to fraud.

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“The right to vote is fundamental to our constitutional democracy. But it means nothing if your vote doesn’t count,” Judge James Ho, a Trump appointee, wrote in a concurring opinion. “And it won’t count if it’s canceled by a fraudulent vote — as the Supreme Court has made clear in case after case.”

Election analysts and fact-checkers have found that voting fraud targeting absentee or mail-in balloting is extremely rare. But Republicans, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE, have cited potential fraud as grounds to oppose efforts across the country to expand mail-in voting amid the pandemic.

At least four justices would need to agree to hear the Texas Democrats’ case to grant their petition. The petitioners also asked the court to consider lifting the 5th Circuit’s stay, which would cause the trial court judge’s order to expand access to go back into effect.