An appeals court in the US state of Texas ruled Friday that Governor Greg Abbott cannot limit drop-off sites for mail-in ballots to one per county, in what could be a setback for United States President Donald Trump.
Upholding a lower court decision, the Texas Third Court of Appeals ruled that limiting the number of drop boxes would increase the risk that voters could be infected with COVID-19 and would infringe on their right to vote.
Trump has repeatedly criticised mail-in ballots, claiming without evidence that they would lead to widespread voter fraud ahead of the November 3 contest that pits the Republican president against former Vice President Joe Biden.
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 that victory may be in reach for Biden, partly due to voters’ dissatisfaction over Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor of Texas tried to make it hard for people to vote, with one ballot drop-off per county – even for counties with millions of residents.
As of today, 5.3 million Texans have already voted – which is a whopping 60% of the total number of 2016 voters in Texas. Amazing.
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) October 21, 2020
Abbott on October 1 issued an order limiting mail-in ballot drop boxes to one per county, regardless of size or population.
The order raised concerns and criticism that it would put a strain on voters in larger counties like Harris, which encompasses the city of Houston and is home to a racially diverse population of over four million people.
Harris County often elects Democratic candidates, such as Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
In its unanimous ruling on Friday, the three-member Texas Third Court of Appeals expressed concerns that limiting drop boxes would increase wait times and create long lines, endangering the health of voters.
Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office would “immediately appeal” to the Texas Supreme Court in a statement released after the ruling.
The court’s decision in Texas is the latest blow to efforts to limit drop-off locations for ballots across the US.
On October 10, a federal judge rejected the Trump re-election campaign’s attempts to limit how mail-in ballots are collected in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.