Appeals Court Halts Ruling to Allow Texans Afraid of Catching COVID-19 to Vote By Mail

May 21, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020

A federal appeals court has temporarily halted a Texas federal judge’s ruling that all of the state’s 16 million voters can request absentee mail-in ballots during the CCP virus pandemic if they have health concerns.

The 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals on Wednesday temporarily put on hold District Judge Fred Biery’s Tuesday ruling that all registered voters who “lack immunity from COVID-19 and fear infection at polling places” would be able to cast a ballot by mail under the “disability” provision in the state’s vote-by-mail election code.

Absentee mail-in ballots in the state are generally limited to those aged 65 and above or those with a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents in-person voting.

“Americans now seek Life without fear of pandemic, Liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease and the pursuit of Happiness without undue restrictions,” Biery wrote in his order on Tuesday. “There are now some among us who would, if they could, nullify those aspirational ideas.”

“The Court finds such fear and anxiety is inextricably intertwined with voters’ physical health. Such apprehension will limit citizens’ rights to cast their votes in person,” he said. “The Court also finds that lack of immunity from COVID-19 is indeed a physical condition.”

Biery wrote that the ruling would remain in effect until the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic subsides, or until the case goes to trial.

A three-judge panel stopped that decision from taking effect for now while the case is reviewed. The Texas Democratic Party has been asked to respond to the court’s order by Thursday afternoon.

The move to temporarily halt Biery’s ruling followed an emergency motion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Shortly after Biery’s ruling, Paxton filed an appeal demanding “immediate review” of the order.

Paxton welcomed the decision to temporarily halt Biery’s ruling, saying that allowing everyone to vote by mail “would only lead to greater fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters.” Biery on Tuesday dismissed claims that expanding mail-in voting would invite fraud in Texas.

The fight in Texas is just one of several court battles across the country over efforts to expand access to mail-in ballots amid the pandemic.

Trump Could Delay State Funding

President Donald Trump has publicly criticized voting by mail, saying it paves the way for potential voter fraud.

“Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to statewide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it,” Trump tweeted last month. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

“Absentee Ballots are a great way to vote for the many senior citizens, military, and others who can’t get to the polls on Election Day,” he added. “These ballots are very different from 100% Mail-In Voting, which is ‘RIPE for FRAUD,’ and shouldn’t be allowed!”

The president on Wednesday threatened to request to withhold federal funding to Michigan and Nevada over widespread mail voting schemes. All Michigan voters will receive applications for absentee voting, while all Nevada voters will receive mail-in ballots.

Supporters of voting by mail say it enables people to exercise their rights while not risking getting infected with the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19.

Dozens of people who voted or worked at Wisconsin’s April 7 primary elections became infected with the virus, state officials said.

The next election date in Texas is July 14, for a primary runoff.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.