AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A federal judge has blocked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that limits mail ballot drop-off locations to one per county.
In a 46-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin said “the public interest is not served by Texas’ continued enforcement of a proclamation plaintiffs have shown likely violates their fundamental right to vote. This factor therefore weighs in favor of a preliminary injunction.”
According to Pitman, the order puts a burden on elderly and disabled residents who would likely use these drop-off locations.
The order also caused civil rights and voter advocacy groups to file a lawsuit against the governor, claiming the order suppresses Texas voters.
In a statement last week, Abbott said the order would enhance security protocols during election season.
“The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said last week. “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.”
Courts have sided with GOP leaders who say fear of catching COVID-19 doesn’t qualify voters to receive mail-in ballots. To qualify for a mail-in ballot in Texas, voters generally must be 65 years older, out of their county on Election Day or disabled.
The Texas Democratic Party chair released a statement on the judge’s ruling on Friday, saying in part “Governor Abbott’s attempt to suppress Texas voters has been thwarted… This important ruling stands up not just for voters but for the Rule of Law.”
Harris County appeared to be the most affected by the order, which began a week ago, as it would have to eliminate 11 of its drop-off locations.
On Wednesday, the Texas Supreme Court also ruled that Houston elections officials could not send unsolicited mail ballot applications to 2 million registered voters.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)