Appeals Court Rules COVID-19 Fears Not Valid Reason for Voting by Mail in Texas

June 5, 2020 by Dan McCue
Nancy Fulton, a clerk, sorts vote by mail ballots in preparation for a vote tally at the Los Angeles County Registrar's office in Norwalk, Calif. on Nov. 4, 2010. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

A federal appeals court in Atlanta ruled Thursday that Texans cannot request mail-in ballots for the upcoming 2020 elections out of fear that they might contract the coronavirus if they vote in person.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling voids an injunction issued by a federal judge last month.

In May, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery held that all registered voters in Texas should be able to apply to vote by mail during the pandemic and concluded that the state’s existing election rules violate the Equal Protection Clause.

“Two hundred forty-years on, Americans now seek life without fear of pandemic, liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease and the pursuit of happiness without undue restrictions,” Biery wrote.

“There are some among us who would, if they could, nullify those aspirational ideas to return to the not so halcyon and not so thrilling days of yesteryear of the Divine Right of Kings, trading our birthright as a sovereign people for a modern mess of governing pottage in the hands of a few and forfeiting the vision of America as a shining city upon a hill,” he said.

But on Thursday, U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, writing on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel, said “the spread of the virus has not given ‘unelected federal judges’ a roving commission to rewrite state election codes.”

Smith also has some curt words for Biery, saying his grant of an injunction in the case “will be remembered more for audacity than legal reasoning.”

Democratic lawmakers in Texas had argued that a longstanding process that allows for people with disabilities, people over 65 and other groups to vote by mail should apply to all people during the ongoing pandemic.

But Republicans pushed back strongly at this assertion, saying allowing for mail-in voting could lead to widespread voter fraud.

This flies in the face of the beliefs of many election experts who say that while fraud in voting-by-mail is more common than in in-person voting, the incident rate is so small as to not be statistically meaningful.

Amber McReynolds, a former Colorado election official and now the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, and Charles Stewart, director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, sought to put the numbers in context in an April op-ed in The Hill.

Over the past 20 years, they wrote, more than 250 million ballots have been cast by mail nationwide, while there have been just 143 criminal convictions for election fraud related to mail ballots.

That averages out to about one case per state every six or seven years, or a fraud rate of 0.00006%.

“Expanding voting by mail will be a challenge in most states in 2020,” they continued. “But we reiterate: There is no evidence that mail-balloting results in rampant voter fraud, nor that election officials lack the knowledge about how to protect against abuses.”

But that and similar analysis did not prevent Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from lauding the 5th Circuit ruling on Thursday afternoon.

“Allowing universal  mail-in ballots, which are particularly vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters. The unanimous 5th Circuit ruling puts a stop to this blatant violation of Texas law,” Paxton said.

2020 Elections

Chicago Mayor Sends Out ‘Census Cowboy’ to Boost Low Response Rates
Chicago Mayor Sends Out ‘Census Cowboy’ to Boost Low Response Rates
July 14, 2020
by Gaspard Le Dem

Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday unveiled an unusual plan to encourage Chicagoans to participate in the U.S. government’s once-a-decade push to count every U.S. resident: a cowboy on a horse.  The mayor was speaking at a press conference when a man in torn denim and... Read More

White House Turns on Fauci as Trump Minimizes Virus Spike
White House Turns on Fauci as Trump Minimizes Virus Spike

WASHINGTON (AP) — With U.S. virus cases spiking and the death toll mounting, the White House is working to undercut its most trusted coronavirus expert, playing down the danger as President Donald Trump pushes to get the economy moving before he faces voters in November. The... Read More

US Rejects Nearly All Chinese Claims in South China Sea
US Rejects Nearly All Chinese Claims in South China Sea

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea. The administration presented the decision... Read More

Immigration Courts Reopen Despite Rising Coronavirus Cases
In The News
Immigration Courts Reopen Despite Rising Coronavirus Cases

BALTIMORE (AP) — Three immigration courts reopened Monday as the government extended its push to fully restart the clogged system despite rising coronavirus cases in states where many of the small courtrooms are located. In Baltimore, people with hearings to reach final decisions were allowed to enter the... Read More

Cuomo Outlines Plan to Reopen Schools in New York
State News
Cuomo Outlines Plan to Reopen Schools in New York

NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out a data-driven plan on Monday for reopening New York schools that hinges on consistently dropping coronavirus infection rates, mandates for face mask usage in classrooms and daily screenings of staff and students. First off, schools can only resume... Read More

Women Congress Hopefuls Smash Record Again as GOP Joins In
Political News
Women Congress Hopefuls Smash Record Again as GOP Joins In

A record number of women are running for Congress this year, boosted in part by a surge of Republican women seeking office in a party struggling to regain lost ground with female voters. The influx adds to the advances female candidates — mostly Democrats — made... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top