AUSTIN, Texas – A federal judge in Texas on Friday halted Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s order to close dozen of postal balloting points dozens of weeks before the November election and approve only one for each county, regardless of size.
Abbott’s order dramatically reduced the number of places in Texas where voters could cast absentee ballots during early voting and had the greatest impact on the state’s largest cities, which are also democratic strongholds. He issued the order on October 1, as voters had already begun to return ballots for the November 3 election.
The move brought swift allegations of repression against Democratic and constituency voters, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, which filed a lawsuit over the ruling in early October.
In a 46-page statement, Austin District Judge Robert Pitman said: “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. This factor therefore speaks in favor of an injunction. “
Gilberto Hinojosa, leader of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement that Pitman’s decision prevented the governor from “inventing” the electoral rules after the election began.
“This important decision stands not only for the voters, but also for the rule of law,” he added. “This is not the first time the Abbott and Texas Republicans have tried to quell the vote, and it won’t be the last.”
Republicans say the drop-off point reduction is necessary to ensure election security. Abbott’s order also stressed that election monitors can watch ballots as President Donald Trump urges his supporters to go to polling stations and “watch very closely,” raising concerns about potential voter intimidation.
Texas is one of only five states that will not allow widespread mail-in voting this year. Polls show unusually close races in America’s largest red state and Democrats could take over the House of Representatives for the first time in 20 years.
The courts have sided with GOP leaders who say fear of catching COVID-19 does not qualify voters to receive postal ballot papers. To qualify for a postal vote in Texas, voters generally must be 65 years of age, outside their county on election day, or be disabled.
Nowhere in Texas have more dispensaries been lost than in Harris County, which includes Houston and is home to 5 million people. The county – a major battlefield in Texas – had to close eleven dispensing points. On Wednesday, the Texas Supreme Court also ruled that Houston electoral officials were not allowed to send unsolicited postal ballot applications to 2 million registered voters.
The US Postal Service informed Texas in July that, given the current deadline for applying for postal voting by the state, some ballots may not be delivered to voters by election day, and that even if all ballots reached voters on time, a “significant one Risk ”Completed Ballot Papers postmarked on or near Election Day would not be received by the state by November 4th.
The Texas Secretary of State’s office has not responded to requests from the Associated Press for comments on its plans to ensure timely delivery of ballot papers.