Democrats have been in court more times than Steely Dan has been in the recording studio as we draw closer to the 2020 presidential election.
And they just scored a major victory in Texas as a judge, appointed by former President Obama, ruled in their favor against Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott, Politico reported. But their victory was short lived.
In an order Friday night, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman said the “about-face” by Abbott threatened to disenfranchise disabled and elderly voters who would now have to travel longer distances to drop off their ballots. The judge also said postal service delays and changes created doubts about whether mailed ballots would arrive in time.
Analysts have said limiting large urban counties to one drop-off site could depress Democratic turnout in those strongholds while having little impact in more rural, conservative areas that lean toward the GOP.
Pitman’s 46-page ruling issuing a preliminary injunction at the request of civil rights groups did not speculate on why Abbott mandated the closure of the remote drop-off sites, but the judge clearly did not buy the state’s claims that allowing multiple locations presented any threat to the integrity of the Nov. 3 election.
“The State’s proffered reason of ballot security is a pretext,” the judge said. “The Court finds that the October 1 Order does not promote ballot security.”
“The October 1 Order is the true source of confusion and disparate treatment among voters,” he said.
“Governor Abbott’s unilateral decision to reverse his July 27 Order after officials already began sending out absentee ballots and just days before the start of early voting in Texas has caused voter confusion,” he said. “It is apparent that closing ballot return centers at the last minute would cause confusion, especially when those centers were deemed safe, authorized, and, in fact, advertised as a convenient option just months ago.”
But an appeals court placed a stay on the order that means that the governor’s limit on the ballot drop boxes remain in place, CNN reported.
A federal appeals court on Saturday granted a temporary administrative stay, allowing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive for one location per county for ballot drop boxes to remain in place for now.
The grant from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit means the directive from Abbott, a Republican, will stand until the court has considered the state’s motion for a stay on its merits.
“The district court’s order undermines our election security, disrupts the democratic process, and will only lead to voter confusion. It cannot stand,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release. “Mail-in ballots are particularly vulnerable to fraud. Protections that ensure their security must be upheld and my office will continue to fight for safe, free and fair elections.”
Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party, accused the Texas governor of targeting votoers of color.
“Cutting these mail-in voting locations was wrong and done solely to attempt to steal the election from the rising Texas electorate,” he said. “A county, like Harris County, with more than 4.7 million Texans should have more than one hand delivery location. Limiting counties like Harris is a desperate Republican attempt to hold onto power.”