Texans Afraid of Catching COVID-19 Can Now Apply to Vote By Mail

May 20, 2020 Updated: May 20, 2020

A Texas federal judge on May 19 ruled 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.

District Judge Fred Biery ruled Tuesday that all registered voters who “lack immunity from COVID-19 and fear infection at polling places” will 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. “There are now some among us who would, if they could, nullify those aspirational ideas.”

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

“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 in a preliminary ruling Tuesday. “The Court also finds that lack of immunity from COVID-19 is indeed a physical condition.”

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.

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!”

Biery dismissed claims that expanding mail-in voting would invite fraud in Texas.

The ruling came just days after the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely controlled by Republicans, handed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton a victory by blocking a lower ruling in state court that cleared the way for widespread vote-by-mail. Officials in Tennessee are also fighting efforts to expand mail-in voting under a similar defense as Texas, saying fear of contracting the CCP virus doesn’t meet medical criteria.

“Today is a victory for all Texans. The right to vote is central to our democracy. This ruling means eligible voters can vote by mail during this pandemic,” Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement Tuesday. “It is time for a few state officers to stop trying to force people to expose themselves to COVID-19 in order to vote.”

All eligible voters in the state can apply for a mail-in ballot by July 2, ahead of a primary runoff on July 14.

Shortly after Biery’s ruling, Paxton filed an appeal demanding “immediate review” of the order.

“The district court’s opinion ignores the evidence and disregards well-established law,” Paxton said in a statement. “We will seek immediate review by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.