AUSTIN—Late Wednesday, April 15th, a federal court judge ruled that Texas voters may cite COVID-19 in mail-in ballot request forms as a “disability” requirement. The League of Women Voters of Texas and the Austin Area League filed a motion to intervene in the case earlier this month and also asked the court to rule that the definition of “disability” in Texas law encompasses all registered voters, since the coronavirus prevents voters from appearing at a polling location without a real likelihood of injuring their health.
“The League is pleased with the decision today that will lift what could have been a massive burden for Texans in the upcoming elections,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “We will continue to do our part in educating voters on how to register to vote and inform voters that voting by mail will be safer both for those who who choose that option and those who cast a vote at the polls on Election Day.”
Tuesday, April 14th, the Texas Attorney General released a letter stating that COVID-19 was not a legitimate use of the disability provision within the state’s election code. However, Judge Sulak’s decision on April 15 invalidates the Attorney General’s advisory memo and grants a temporary injunction to allow all eligible voters to cast a mail-in ballot and use the COVID-19 pandemic as a legitimate disability impediment to in-person participation.
“The Austin area is one of the high population areas in Texas, so the impact this impediment would have had is undeniable,” said Joyce LeBombard, president of League of Women Voters of Austin Area. “The decision could not have been more timely or critical for Austin voters.”
The League of Women Voters registers thousands of voters in Texas each election cycle and offers robust voter education to assist individuals in making their Election Day plans. As the case could be appealed before the general election, the League will continue to update voters on their options for casting mail-in ballots.
“This is truly a victory and exalts the Texas judiciary as a shining example of how to balance the constitutional right to vote with legitimate health and safety concerns,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “The League is no stranger to these lawsuits across the country, and we will continue to work on behalf of voters nationwide to expand and protect access to the ballot in these unprecedented times.”
To support the League of Women Voters of Texas or learn more about their work, visit lwvtexas.org.