U.S. Appeals Court Denies Bid to Bolster Voting by Mail in Texas

On Thursday, A U.S. appeals court denied a bid by Texas Democrats bid to enable all state residents to vote by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic, ruling that the state’s law extending that right only to those over 65 was not unconstitutional age discrimination.

One of A Dozen Challenges

A split three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s preliminary ruling that had needed the state to widen mail-in voting to every eligible voter.

The Texas case is just one of the dozens of court challenges going across the whole country over whether to widen voting rights citing the situation of the pandemic. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has contented without evidence that voting by mail will lead to fraud.  Many states have utilized the practice for decades with no major problems.

Texas law enables voters above 65 years of age, as well as those with certain disabilities, who are ill, absent from their home counties or confined to jail, to vote by mail. In a separate case, the state’s high court ruled in May that the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus was not in itself a valid reason to allow mail-in ballots.

Point of Debate

The 5th Circuit’s majority said the state’s law did not defy the U.S. Prohibition of Constitution on age discrimination because it merely discussed an extra benefit on older residents, rather than curbing the right to vote for younger Texans.

“A law that makes it easier for others to vote does not abridge any person’s right to vote,” the majority wrote.

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In contradiction, U.S. Circuit Judge Carl Stewart said the law hurt younger voters by sidelining their options at the time of a public health crisis.

Thursday’s ruling does not terminate the lawsuit. The case will return to a lower court to consider the Democrats’ remaining arguments against the law.

Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement, “The Texas Democratic Party will continue to fight in the district court for every Texan to have an equal right to vote, regardless of their age.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who defended the state in the lawsuit, said in a statement: “We will continue to protect the integrity of Texas elections and uphold the rule of law.”