Texas judge OKs expanded mail-in voting during COVID-19 pandemic

A week after troubling images emerged of voters sporting face masks and trying to maintain social distancing as they stood in long lines during the Wisconsin primary, a Texas court ruled that the state’s registered voters would qualify to vote via mail during the pandemic.

After the ACLU and the Texas Civil Rights Project brought a suit to compel mail-in voting as COVID-19 sweeps the world and upends life, Texas District Judge Tim Sulak said he would issue a temporary injunction allowing Texans to request mail-in ballots.

“Common sense and the spirit of the law won over the attorney general’s inexplicable stance that voters’ susceptibility to COVID-19 isn’t a physical condition under the law today,” said Joaquin Gonzalez, staff attorney in the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project, who also presented oral argument. “There’s more work to do to protect our democracy through the pandemic, but we’re pleased counties now have more clarity to prepare for upcoming elections.”

Earlier in the week President Trump had panned voting by mail, although that’s the way he cast his own absentee ballot in Florida, contending that it raises the specter of fraud. It “is a terrible, terrible thing,” the president said at a press coronavirus task force press conference. “There’s a lot of dishonesty going on with mail-in voting, mail-in ballots. I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.”

Despite pushback from the White House, voting by mail – currently practiced in five states with all 50 offering some form of voting by absentee ballot – is gaining traction and advocates say that any security issues, which remain low, could be remediated.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., recently introduced legislation to expand and protect voting, including secure mail-in voting.

“Voting by mail is easy, secure, and the healthiest and safest way to cast your ballot,” former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, founder and chair of Fair Fight Action, says in a video promoting mail-in voting. “You can vote by mail while you are socially distancing and stay at home. Just as we adapt to new norms to protect ourselves and our loved ones, we must also adapt to how we conduct our elections.”

Florida and California are among the states mulling vote by mail.

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