A Texas Judge Just Greenlit Democrats’ Effort to Increase Vote-By-Mail

The state’s Republican attorney general will almost surely appeal.

Across the country, state and federal officials are grappling with the issue of voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.Elaine Thompson/AP

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

Any Texan worried that voting in person may put their health at risk because of the coronavirus can vote by mail during the next election, a state district judge ruled on Wednesday.

The Travis County District Court ruling on the lawsuit, filed by Texas Democrats in late March, temporarily suspends the rules that typically only allow the elderly, disabled, and incarcerated to vote by mail. According to the court, anyone concerned about contracting the coronavirus while voting in person can claim the “disability” exception to vote-by-mail requirements. Runoff elections, including for Sen. John Cornyn’s challenger, originally scheduled for May, have been moved to July.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to the ruling with a letter to the state’s House Election Committee, arguing that “fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability.” He also suggested that “third parties” who “advise voters to apply for a mail-in ballot” due to coronavirus concerns could be criminally charged.  

The battle to determine how voting should happen amid locked-down states isn’t limited to Texas. Across the country, state lawmakers are scrambling to reconcile in-person voting with social distancing and, of course, the party line. President Donald Trump is a vocal critic of mail-in voting, claiming that it introduces high risk of voter fraud, and “for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled against expanding vote-by-mail in Wisconsin on the eve of the state’s primaries. The court’s decision, authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, sided with protecting the state from potential voter fraud, but included one notable caveat: “The Court’s decision on the narrow question before the Court should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold the election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID–19 are appropriate. That point cannot be stressed enough.”

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.