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Court: COVID Fears No Excuse for Mail-in Ballots

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A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that fear of contracting COVID-19 is not a sufficient reason to request an absentee ballot for the upcoming 2020 elections.

The ruling, issued by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reverses an injunction that would have granted Texas voters the option to request an absentee ballot over fears of contracting the virus if they were to vote in person.

The injunction was originally granted by a federal judge on May 19.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Jerry Smith said that “the spread of the virus has not given unelected federal judges a roving commission to rewrite state election codes.”

The decision is the latest chapter in a growing national debate over mail-in voting, with President Donald Trump warning in a tweet that a mail-in election in November would be “substantially fraudulent.”

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Twitter flagged the tweet with a link leading to “fact-checks” of the president’s claim.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed,” Trump had tweeted.

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Republicans have been skeptical of mail-in voting, citing increased risk for voter fraud, while Democrats have touted the system as a way to increase turnout and give more people the ability to vote.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was quick to commend the verdict, saying that “allowing universal mail-in ballots, which are particularly vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters.”

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement describing widespread concerns among Democrats, saying that “voters who are rightfully worried about the safety of in-person voting should have the option to vote by mail.

“The Constitution prohibits divvying up our rights by age, gender, or race.”

A similar process played out at the state level, where the Texas Supreme Court ruled on May 27 that overturned expansions of mail-in voting.

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The decision comes as a Tennessee state court gave an opposite ruling late Thursday, stating that any registered voter in the state can qualify for mail-in voting as long as they provide a reason.

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