A federal judge blocks Texas from limiting voters to one ballot drop-off site per county and forcing them to travel long distances to cast ballots

  • A US federal judge ruled on Friday preventing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott from reducing the number of mail-in ballot drop-off sites to one site per country, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Abbott's order would have required people to travel for miles just to reach one ballot drop-off location, which Democrats saw as voter suppression.
  • US District Judge Robert Pitman wrote that Abbott's order would have created for elderly and disabled voters.
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to appeal the decision.
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A US federal judge issued an order on Friday that would prevent Texas Governor Greg Abbott from reducing the number of available mail-in ballot drop-off sites to one site per country, which Democrats contended was an act of voter suppression, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

In a 46-page decision, Judge Robert Pitman of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas wrote that Abbott's order limiting drop-off sites would be burdensome to many voters, especially seniors and disabled voters, many of whom rely on mail-in balloting and are likely to use the drop-off sites.

The judge also noted that the susceptibility of such voters to the coronavirus pandemic was an issue.

"By limiting ballot return centers to one per county, older and disabled voters living in Texas's largest and most populous counties must travel further distances to more crowded ballot return centers where they would be at an increased risk of being infected by the coronavirus in order to exercise their right to vote and have it counted," Pitman wrote.

He added: "By forcing absentee voters to risk infection with a deadly disease to return their ballots in person or disenfranchisement if the (Postal Service) is unable to deliver their ballots in time, the October 1 Order imposes a burden on an already vulnerable voting population."

When Abbott made his proclamation on Oct. 1, he said that by limiting each county to one drop-off site, he was protecting the integrity of the election.

"As we work to preserve Texans' ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state," Abbott said at the time. "These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting."

The state hasn't responded, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to appeal the ruling. The appeal would land in the more conservative US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, released a statement praising the decision.

"Governor Abbott's attempt to suppress Texas voters has been thwarted," he said. "Judge Pitman's common sense order followed well-established law and stopped the governor from making up election rules after the election started. Frankly, it ought to be a shock to all of us that such a ruling is even required."

Texas, a traditionally reliable Republican stronghold, has emerged as a potential electoral battleground this year, with President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee both competing for the state's 38 electoral votes. Trump currently leads Biden in the Real Clear Politics polling average for Texas by a 49.2% to 44.8% margin. 

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