(Liberty Bell) – On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court blocked an order from the lower-court which allowed residents to vote by mail in the name of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
After the appeals court upheld a lower-court ruling last month which had lifted restrictions on mail-in voting, Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned the court of a stay.
County officials, as per the stay, are now prevented from formally taking mail-in ballot applications from voters who were supposedly concerned about contracting the coronavirus which they can do starting 60 days before an election.
Texas held its primary in March. It’s not yet clear if the high court will hear arguments and issue a final ruling before November’s general election.
Voting by mail in Texas is generally limited to those 65 or older or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents voting in person. Paxton petitioned the Republican-dominated high court after officials in some predominantly Democratic areas approved measures to would allow voters to claim a disability and request mail-in ballots if they are worried about getting sick at polling places.
County officials and Texas Democrats cast Paxton’s move as an effort to disrupt the election and an ongoing voting case. The attorney general’s request contends officials in counties that include Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and the border community of Brownsville have broadened eligibility to vote by mail beyond what the Legislature intended.
This ruling comes amid national consideration of similar mail-in voting measures which many conservatives, including President Donald Trump, are concerned may set the stage for widespread mail fraud.
Democrats, of course, have been banging the drum of mail-in voting since the pandemic first arose.
“Protecting the integrity of elections is one of my most important and sacred obligations,” Paxton said in a statement. “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. I am pleased that today the Texas Supreme Court confirmed that my office may continue to prosecute voter fraud and issue guidance on mail-in ballots while that appeal plays out.”
The Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, meanwhile, called the decision “a dark day for our democracy.”
“The Republican Texas Supreme Court is wrong to force the people of Texas to choose between their health and their right to vote,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “They would have Texans die, just so they can hold on to power. Voters should have the ability to vote-by-mail during a pandemic if they feel their health is in danger. … We will continue to fight like hell to protect every eligible Texan’s right to vote and have their voices heard by their government.”