A Texas Judge Just Greenlit Democrats’ Effort to Increase Vote-By-Mail

The state’s Republican attorney general will almost surely appeal.

Across the country, state and federal officials are grappling with the issue of voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.Elaine Thompson/AP

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Any Texan worried that voting in person may put their health at risk because of the coronavirus can vote by mail during the next election, a state district judge ruled on Wednesday.

The Travis County District Court ruling on the lawsuit, filed by Texas Democrats in late March, temporarily suspends the rules that typically only allow the elderly, disabled, and incarcerated to vote by mail. According to the court, anyone concerned about contracting the coronavirus while voting in person can claim the “disability” exception to vote-by-mail requirements. Runoff elections, including for Sen. John Cornyn’s challenger, originally scheduled for May, have been moved to July.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to the ruling with a letter to the state’s House Election Committee, arguing that “fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability.” He also suggested that “third parties” who “advise voters to apply for a mail-in ballot” due to coronavirus concerns could be criminally charged.  

The battle to determine how voting should happen amid locked-down states isn’t limited to Texas. Across the country, state lawmakers are scrambling to reconcile in-person voting with social distancing and, of course, the party line. President Donald Trump is a vocal critic of mail-in voting, claiming that it introduces high risk of voter fraud, and “for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled against expanding vote-by-mail in Wisconsin on the eve of the state’s primaries. The court’s decision, authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, sided with protecting the state from potential voter fraud, but included one notable caveat: “The Court’s decision on the narrow question before the Court should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold the election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID–19 are appropriate. That point cannot be stressed enough.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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