The highest court in Texas has sided with President Donald Trump in the controversy over mail-in ballots.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that fear of catching the coronavirus is not a disability, the Washington Examiner reported, dealing a blow to Democrats in the state who have sought to expand access to mail-in ballots with COVID-19 in mind.
“Big win in Texas”
President Trump has repeatedly warned that the widespread use of mail-in ballots this November will result in massive fraud, a claim that has been hotly contradicted by Democratic lawmakers — and users on Twitter. Democrats have suggested that failure to make accommodations for Americans to vote from home, with the coronavirus pandemic going on, is equal to taking away their right to vote.
In Texas, however, the highest court ruled that a person who is afraid of catching the virus is not considered “disabled,” echoing the argument of Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton, according to the Examiner. Under the Texas election code, only those who are 65 or older, disabled, in jail, or out of the county during election time can vote by mail, as a report from The Hill noted.
In an opinion authored by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and six others, the high court decided that using such a broad rule in this instance would render “disability” a meaningless term.
“The question before us is not whether voting by mail is better policy or worse, but what the Legislature has enacted. It is purely a question of law,” the court wrote, according to The Dallas Morning News. “We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code.”
“Mail-in voting scam”
President Trump, for his part, responded to the news by calling it a “big win” against what he characterized as a “dangerous mail-in voting scam” in a tweet posted Thursday.
Texas Supreme Court: Lack of immunity to COVID-19 alone not enough to vote by mail https://t.co/rAZVRF4nkj Big win in Texas on the dangerous Mail In Voting Scam!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2020
Republicans have generally argued that voter fraud is a serious problem, but Democrats have claimed that “voter suppression” is a bigger threat to democracy. Responding to the news last week, the Texas Democratic Party complained that the state Supreme Court’s recent decision puts voters at risk.
“Now, unless the federal court steps in, because of the Texas Republican Supreme Court, voters will have to either risk standing in line and contracting the coronavirus or they’ll risk prosecution by indicted Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and his grand juries for simply requesting a mail-in-ballot,” the party complained, according to The Dallas Morning News.
But while the decision indeed marks a setback for Texas Democrats, the ruling does not necessarily prevent those who list the coronavirus as a disability from getting absentee ballots. Under Texas law, voters seeking absentee ballots are not required to specify their disability, The Hill notes, and the court rejected a request from Paxton to force local election officials to reject ballot requests from people citing the virus, according to the Morning News.
In the meantime, another case on the subject is working its way through federal court, the Morning News reports. Only time will tell, however, if President Trump will soon land another victory.