Federal Judge Rules Texas Counties Cannot Charge Officials With Crimes For Encouraging Mail-In Voting

(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Font Size:

Federal District Judge Xavier Rodriguez issued a temporary ban Friday on a part of the new Texas law that prohibited election officials from encouraging voters to mail in their ballots.

The judge voted in favor of Harris County, Texas, whose officials accused the state’s voting bill SB1, signed into law in 2021, of precluding them from assisting voters, according to CNN.

The injunction “does not affect any voting procedures,” Rodriguez wrote, CNN reported. “It simply prevents the imposition of criminal and civil penalties against officials for encouraging people to vote by mail if they are eligible to do so.”

Rodriguez pushed back against the arguments from the Texas Attorney General’s Office that banning the enforcement of this provision would create confusion among some voters ahead of the state’s March 1 primary, according to CNN. (RELATED: Justice Department Sues Texas Over New Election Law)

The state’s election law envisions a punishment of at least six months in prison for any public official to deliberately solicit “the submission of an application to vote by mail” from a voter who did not request one, CNN reported.

“It has a chilling effect,” the judge reportedly said of the clause’s effect on election officials. “They don’t know when they’re going to run afoul of this vague [law].”

Rodriguez also reportedly took issue with the ambiguity of the law’s language, claiming that it was not clear who fell under the category of a “public official.”