Voting

Polling materials are scattered about the Nacogdoches County Courthouse annex as election workers prepare for early voting in this October 2018 file photo. The legal battle over mail-in ballots continues.

The decision on mail ballot eligibility has gone back and forth several times this week as a federal judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of expanding mail ballots to all eligible Texas voters — only to be temporarily blocked late Wednesday afternoon by a federal appeals court.

“This does all seem to be moving very fast, so maybe before long there will be a final ruling one way or the other” said Nacogdoches County Elections Administrator Todd Stallings. “I’m ready to go one way or the other; I just want to know what it’s going to be so we can plan accordingly for November.”

Most of the voters requesting mail-in ballots for the upcoming Democratic primary runoff have been over 65,  said Stallings, who recommends caution on applying for mail ballots until the legal dust-up settles.

Voting by mail in Texas is traditionally limited to voters ages 65 or older, disabled or those who will be out of the county or confined in jail during an election. Members of the armed forces may also vote by mail.

A state district judge in April issued a temporary injunction allowing voters requesting a mail ballot to cite lack of immunity to COVID-19 as a disability or illness, a decision that was upheld by a state appeals court May 7 and then temporarily overruled May 15 by the Texas Supreme Court. On Tuesday, however, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery granted a preliminary injunction allowing all registered voters to cast ballots by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton immediately filed an appeal.

“Mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud,” Paxton said. “Two-thirds of all election fraud cases prosecuted by my office involve mail ballot fraud, also known as ‘vote harvesting.’ Allowing widespread mail-in ballots will lead to greater fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters.”

A three-judge panel on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Paxton and blocked Biery’s injunction. Paxton sent out another release applauding the decision.

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