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Federal judge orders expansion of mail-in voting in Texas

SeattlePI.com Wednesday, 20 May 2020 ()
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge Tuesday ordered Texas to allow any of the state's 16 million voters to cast a ballot by mail over fears of the coronavirus, paving the way for what would be one of the most dramatic expansions of mail-in voting in the country.

The decision is unlikely to be the last word. Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who in recent weeks has suggested that steering voters toward wrongly applying for mail-in ballots could result in prosecution, said the state would appeal. He called the ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery a dismissal of “well-established law.”

The fight in Texas is just one of several court battles across the country over efforts, mainly by Democrats, to expand access to mail-in ballots amid the pandemic. In Wisconsin, where election officials drew widespread criticism for holding its April 7 presidential primary even as other states delayed voting, a new lawsuit filed Monday argued that not enough has been done since then to ensure that the upcoming elections can be conducted safely and fairly.

Voting by mail in Texas is generally limited to those 65 or older or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents voting in person. In a lengthy ruling, Biery rejected Paxton's assertion that fear of getting the virus doesn’t qualify as a disability under the law.

“Clearly, fear and anxiety currently gripping the United States has limited citizens’ physical movements, affected their mental senses and constricted activities, socially and economically,” Biery wrote.

He also dismissed claims that expanding mail-in voting would invite fraud in Texas, citing scant evidence.

The ruling came just days after the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely controlled by Republicans, handed Paxton a victory by blocking a lower ruling in state court...
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