A federal appeals court on Monday (October 12) voted to uphold Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s order to remove dozens of mail-in ballot dropoff sites before the November election. This comes just days after a federal judge on Friday (October 9) ruled to stop the order, which “allowed for only one absentee ballot dropoff location for every county, regardless of its size,” NBC News reports.
Three Trump-appointed judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed with Texas Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs, who argued that “Abbott’s order was part of a 40-day expansion of Texans’ absentee voting opportunities put in place because of Covid-19 that went beyond what state election rules normally permit,” according to NBC.
The court wrote in its ruling:
“Leaving the governor’s October 1 proclamation in place still gives Texas absentee voters many ways to cast their ballots in the November 3 election. These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-Covid world. The October 1 proclamation abridges no one’s right to vote.”
Voting rights advocates and local election administrators accuse Gov. Abbott of voter suppression with his order, according to The Texas Tribune. They argue that the extra mail-in ballot dropoff sites are necessary in order to keep voters safe during the pandemic. “To force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single dropoff location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous,” Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said earlier this month, according to The Tribune.
A number of civil rights groups called the order “an act of voter suppression that would disproportionately impact low-income voters, voters with disabilities, older voters and voters of color in Democratic counties, The Tribune reports. The Governor defends his actions by saying he simply wants to “ensure the security of the ballots,” according to NBC.
The lawsuit was first filed in early October and the plaintiffs listed on the appeal include the League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Women Voters of Texas and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives. The organizations were not immediately available for comment.
The federal judge on Friday ruled to halt the governor’s order, stating “the public interest is not served by Texas’ continued enforcement of a proclamation plaintiffs have shown likely violates their fundamental right to vote,” NBC reports.
As NBC reports, the Trump-appointed judges argued Monday that “the district court erred" in its assessment of “plaintiffs’ voting-rights and equal protection claims."