Texas Supreme Court Halts Counties From Issuing Mail-In Ballots to Voters Afraid of Virus

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 5/22/2020, 10:20 a.m.

The Texas Supreme Court issued a stay Friday evening to keep county election officials from allowing voters who are afraid of catching coronavirus to vote by mail.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the court to step in Wednesday, arguing that election officials are "misapplying" the state's "disability" requirement for absentee mail-in voting amid the pandemic.

Paxton, a Republican, filed a petition for Dallas, Cameron, El Paso, Harris and Travis counties.

The court will hear the case on May 20 as the next state election fast approaches.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Democrats and voting rights groups havepushed for states to expand vote-by-mail access. Those calls have been met with resistance from Republicans, who favor stricter measures that they argue ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

The next election date in Texas is July 14 for a primary runoff election. The last day to apply for a mail-in ballot is July 2.

The Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit in late March, asking a judge to allow that a Texas election provision allowing voters to cast a mail-in ballot if they suffer from a disability apply to any voter who feared for their health amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 17, Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak issued a temporary injunction allowing any voter with coronavirus concerns to use the "disability" election provision to request a vote-by-mail ballot.

Paxton immediately filed an appeal against the decision arguing that fear of contracting Covid-19 does not amount to a "sickness or physical condition" as required by state law.

On May 14, a Texas appeals court upheld the lower court's decision to expand access to mail-in-voting. Paxton, unhappy with the ruling, then filed a request for a stay on Friday, asking the Texas Supreme Court to intercede on the matter, arguing that the appeals court decision should be placed on hold.

"The Legislature has carefully limited who may and may not vote by mail. The Travis County trial court's decision to allow everyone to vote by mail is contrary to state law and will be reversed on appeal," Paxton said in a statement Friday after the Texas Supreme Court's decision.

In a statement Friday, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa called the Texas Supreme Court "wrong to force the people of Texas to choose between their health and their right to vote."

"They would have Texans die, just so they can hold on to power," he said.

This story has been updated with additional details and comments from both the Texas attorney general and the chair of the state's Democratic Party.

CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.