Voters waited in line to cast their ballots at Lion's Field in San Antonio during the 2018 midterms. Voting rights groups argue that people should be allowed to avoid crowded polling places during the pandemic.
The showdown between Texas' Republican leadership and voting rights groups over whether to expand absentee voting during the pandemic may be headed to the state's highest court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday asked the Texas Supreme Court to issue an order barring local election officials from letting residents concerned about coronavirus exposure to cast mail-in ballots instead of voting in person.
The state has been hit with multiple lawsuits challenging Paxton's interpretation that its vote-by-mail rules only apply to a narrow group — primarily the elderly and people with disabilities. Earlier this month, the Republican AG sent a letter
threatening to jail local officials who advise voters that they can cast mail-in ballots if they're concerned about contracting COVID-19 at the polls.
Paxton's motion is the latest salvo in an escalating legal battle over whether the pandemic warrants an expansion of Texas' mail-in voting rules. Both state and federal courts are considering suits challenging his narrow interpretation.
The outcome of those disputes will likely decide whether mail-in voting is significantly widened for the July primary contest and potentially also for November's general election.
Texas' GOP leaders have largely opposed measures easing voting restrictions, claiming they would increase voter fraud. Progressive groups say there's no evidence to support such a claim and that Republicans instead want to keep away poor and minority voters who are more likely to support Democratic candidates.
“Expanding vote-by-mail is a no-brainer and many states across the country, both red and blue, have taken this necessary step to protect their voters," said Ed Espinoza, executive director of Progress Texas, in a written statement. "Unfortunately, it appears the priorities of conservative state leaders are clear: suppress the vote at all costs, even if it puts lives at risk.”
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