Lawsuit Seeks to Block Texas Vote-By-Mail Restrictions

May 12, 2020by Chuck Lindell, Austin American-Statesman (TNS)
Fog enshrouds Texas Capitol dome on Jan. 8, 2019, opening day of the 86th Texas Legislature. (Ken Herman/Austin American-Statesman/TNS)

AUSTIN, Texas — Opening a new front in the legal battle to expand voting by mail in Texas, a federal lawsuit filed Monday seeks to block a handful of state regulations described as onerous and detrimental to voting rights.

The lawsuit, filed in San Antonio by civil rights groups and five voters, argues that the regulations will keep many Texans from voting or having their ballots counted during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Should these provisions remain in effect come November, many Texans will suffer the loss of their right to vote, a right they will never be able to recover,” the lawsuit said.

The petition asks a federal judge to block four restrictions for mail-in voting:

— The requirement that voters sign ballots with a signature that matches a previously provided signature, which the lawsuit says puts ballots at risk of being rejected “based on the untrained guesses of overworked elections officials.”

— A ban the people assisting others in filling out or delivering mail-in ballots, which deters good Samaritans from helping voters in need, the lawsuit said.

— The requirement that ballots be postmarked no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day, and received by county election officials by 5 p.m. the following day, which the lawsuit argued could lead to missed deadlines as the postal service struggles to deliver a large number of mailed ballots amid a pandemic.

— The requirement that voters pay for the postage to submit ballots by mail, which the lawsuit calls an unfair stamp tax that can require voters to make unplanned trips to a store or post office, putting them in contact with others — a situation many would be trying to avoid.

Several of the challenged regulations were put in place to improve the security of mail-in ballots, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is fighting two other lawsuits that seek to expand voting by mail — both filed by the Texas Democratic Party — arguing that the effort is contrary to state law and would facilitate election fraud.

Under state law, voting by mail is reserved for those who expect to be out of the county, are 65 or older, have a disability or are incarcerated.

The latest lawsuit was filed by the Texas Conference of the NAACP, Voto Latino, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and five voters from across the state.

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©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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