Supreme Court Declines to Force Texas Officials to Expand Mail-In Voting

June 26, 2020 by Dan McCue
The Supreme Court building. March 4, 2020. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Friday evening decline to force Texas officials to offer mail-in ballots to all voters in the state because of the threat posed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The court’s order is the latest development in a weeks-long battle between Texas Democrats and state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, over voting during the pandemic.

The Democrats argue that people shouldn’t have to choose between their right to vote and their health. Paxton maintains that expanding access to vote-by-mail could lead to voter fraud.

State regulations allow vote by mail to those who are 65 and older, voters who have a sickness or physical condition from appearing at the polls, and others who are absent from the county.

In May, a district court held that in light of the pandemic, all voters in Texas could take part in no-excuse vote by mail. The judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the provision. But then on June 4, a federal appeals court blocked that ruling, pending appeal.

Hoping the justices would reinstate the district judge’s order, the Texas Democrats submitted a request to vacate the stay to Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., who oversees emergency requests from that region of the country.

As is their custom, the justices did not explain their rationale for not hearing the case, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote  that she thought the application raised “weighty but seemingly novel questions” regarding the 26th amendment that she hoped a court of appeals would consider “well in advance” of the November election.

In a statement Friday night, Paxton said, “I applaud the Supreme Court for following the law and refusing to order mail-in balloting that the Texas Legislature has forbidden.”

“Universal mail-in ballots, which are notoriously vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters,” Paxton said. “State election officials have many options available to safely and securely hold elections without risking widespread fraud. My office will continue to fight for safe, free and fair elections.”  

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