Judge Robert Pitman agreed in writing, “By limiting the number of drop-off points to one per district, elderly and disabled voters living in the largest and most populous counties of Texas will have to travel further distances to overcrowded ballot boxes, which put them at increased risk . ” infected by the coronavirus to exercise their right to vote and make it count. “
“Frankly, it should come as a shock to all of us that such a decision is even necessary,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, leader of the Texas Democratic Party, in a statement.
CNN asked Abbott’s office for comment Friday.
Prior to the start of the early voting in Texas on October 13, the policy had asked large counties, regardless of population or area, to limit their number of postal balloting points to one. Abbott, a Republican, had argued the policy was necessary to ensure that the drop boxes remain secure. However, the judge said the risk of voter disenfranchisement outweighed these concerns.
The judge was also concerned about Abbott̵
“The public interest is not served by Texas’ continued enforcement of a proclamation. Plaintiffs have shown that they are likely to violate their fundamental right to vote,” Pitman wrote.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and concerns of some voters about the in-person voting, requests for postal and postal votes in the US have increased.
In Texas, the state Republicans have successfully blocked attempts by the Democrats to expand the mail-in voting, citing election fraud. While postal ballot fraud is rare, it is by no means a widespread problem in the US electoral system.
In his statement announcing the move last week, Abbott said cutting off drop box locations would “maintain the integrity of our elections.”
“As we work to maintain Texans’ eligibility to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take special care to strengthen ballot security protocols across the state. These enhanced security protocols will provide greater transparency and help prevent illegal voting attempts to stop.” Abbott said on October 1st.
The state’s justifications for the directive, Pitman wrote, “do not constitute a sufficiently relevant and legitimate interest in the face of the burden placed on plaintiffs,” adding that constituencies have shown that the directive “is likely to violate their fundamental right to vote” under the first and fourteenth amendment. “
Pitman also wrote that under the policy, “absent voters must choose whether to take the risk of coronavirus exposure to cast their ballots in person or be disenfranchised if the USPS cannot deliver their ballots on time.”
Prior to Abbott’s orders, several counties had begun establishing multiple postal voting points. Harris County, the state’s most populous county and a Democratic stronghold, was forced to reduce its 12 dispensing points to one on October 2nd. Over 40% of Harris County’s residents are Latinos and nearly 20% are Black.
Texas has traditionally been Republican for the past few decades, but Democrats believe it will play a role in the November election. Several polls have shown a close race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in the Lone Star State.
This story has been updated with more information about the decision and background information.
CNN’s Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.