Texas may not limit ballot drop boxes for US election, says appeals court

People wait in line to cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election as early voting begins in Houston, Texas October 13, 2020. ― Reuters pic
People wait in line to cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election as early voting begins in Houston, Texas October 13, 2020. ― Reuters pic

HOUSTON, Oct 24 ― A Texas appeals court yesterday ruled the Republican governor cannot limit drop-off sites for mail ballots to one per county, a setback for US President Donald Trump.

Upholding a lower court decision, the appeals court ruled against Texas governor Greg Abbott. The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that limiting the number of drop boxes would increase the risk that voters could get infected with Covid-19, and would infringe on their right to vote.

Abbott has informed the voting rights groups who oppose his move to limit drop boxes that he intends to quickly appeal yesterday's ruling to the Texas Supreme Court, effectively delaying the re-opening of ballot drop-off locations.

“We don't expect his limit to get lifted until the Texas Supreme Court rules,” said Myrna Perez, director of the voting rights and elections program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy institute which represented the groups challenging Abbott's order.

Trump has repeatedly criticised mail-in ballots, claiming without evidence they would lead to widespread fraud. Trump, a Republican, faces Democrat Joe Biden in the race for the White House on November 3.

Trump won Texas by nine percentage points in 2016. Though a Democratic presidential candidate has not won the state in more than four decades, opinion polls suggest it might be in reach for Biden, in part because of dissatisfaction over Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Abbott on October 1 issued an order limiting mail-in ballot drop boxes to one per county.

On October 15, Judge Tim Sulak said the limitation “would likely needlessly and unreasonably increase risks of exposure to Covid-19 infections, and needlessly and unreasonably substantially burden voters' constitutionally protected rights to vote.”

In a unanimous ruling yesterday, the three-member appeals court expressed concerns that limiting drop boxes would increase congestion and long lines, endangering the health of voters. ― Reuters

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