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Coronavirus Fears Not A Valid Excuse To Request Texas Absentee Ballots, Appeals Court Rules

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A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that fear over contracting the coronavirus is not a sufficient reason to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming 2020 elections.

The ruling, issued by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reverses an injunction that would have granted Texas voters the option of requesting an absentee ballot over fears of contracting the coronavirus if they were to vote in person. The injunction was originally granted by a federal judge May 19.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Jerry Smith said that “the spread of the virus has not given unelected federal judges a roving commission to rewrite state election codes.”

The decision is the latest chapter in a growing national debate over mail-in voting, with most Republicans offering praise for the decision and most Democrats offering criticism. Republicans have been skeptical over mail-in voting, citing increased risk for voter fraud, while Democrats have touted mail-in voting as a way to increase turnout and allow more people the ability to vote. (RELATED: DC’s Mail-In Voting Mired In Confusion As Nation Debates How To Handle Elections)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was quick to commend the verdict, saying that “allowing universal mail-in ballots, which are particularly vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters.”

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement widespread concerns among Democrats, saying that “voters who are rightfully worried about the safety of in-person voting should have the option to vote by mail. The Constitution prohibits divvying up our rights by age, gender, or race.”

A similar process played out at the state level, where the Texas Supreme Court gave a similar ruling on May 27 that also overturned expansions of mail-in voting.

The decision comes as a Tennessee state court ruled in the opposite manner late Thursday, stating that any registered voter in the state can qualify for mail-in voting as long as they provide a reason.

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