Federal Appeals Court Blocks Ruling That Halted Texas’s Limiting of Ballot Drop-Off Boxes

October 12, 2020 Updated: October 12, 2020

A federal appeals court on Oct. 10 issued a temporary stay allowing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to continue limiting counties to a single drop-off site for absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said it granted a temporary stay while the case was appealed.

The move follows the Oct. 9 issuance, by a federal court, of a preliminary injunction to block Abbott’s order limiting absentee ballot drop-off boxes to one per county, which the governor has argued is a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud but which Democrats denounced as voter suppression.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued the injunction against Abbott’s Oct. 1 order, arguing in a 46-page opinion (pdf) that Abbott’s order violates the equal protection rights of absentee voters in larger counties.

Abbott issued a proclamation on Oct. 1 directing counties to designate one location for ballot drop-offs, citing concerns about election integrity.

“The state of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said in a statement. “As we work to preserve Texans’ ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”

Democrats decried Abbott’s order as alleged voter suppression, with voter rights advocates and civic groups launching a lawsuit in federal court. They argued the order was based on security concerns that are invalid and that it violates voters’ 1st and 14th Amendment rights.

Pitman, an appointee of then-President Barack Obama, wrote in his ruling that Abbott’s order could be justified if it could be shown that threats to election security were sufficiently valid.

“The State advances only vague interest in promoting ballot security and uniformity, and alleviating voter confusion,” the opinion states. “The Court finds that Defendants have not presented any credible evidence that their interests outweigh these burdens.”

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Frank Colon, 59, delivers mail amid the CCP virus pandemic in El Paso, Texas, on April 30, 2020. (Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

Absentee voting is expected to surge due to the CCP virus pandemic. At the same time, Texas is one of the few U.S. states that limits who can request absentee ballots: Only voters who are over the age of 65, have a disability, are confined to a jail, or will be out of town on Election Day can vote by mail.

The fight between Republicans and Democrats over mail-in balloting has become a defining issue of the 2020 election. Republicans have portrayed the large-scale expansion of vote-by-mail initiatives as rife with the risk of voter fraud, while Democrats have hailed it as a safety measure to protect voters amid the outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

While there is no evidence of large-scale, coordinated voter fraud at a national level, voter fraud is no myth, an elections expert told The Epoch Times.

Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer who manages The Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, pointed to a database managed by the foundation that has 1,298 proven instances of voter fraud.

“And that’s not a comprehensive list. It’s just a sampling of cases,” von Spakovsky told The Epoch Times last week.

“The problem here is that many potential cases of fraud, nothing is done about them. Elected officials don’t send them to law enforcement, law enforcement doesn’t investigate them. And we know the potential cases out there is far, far larger than the proven cases we have in our database.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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