Supreme Court Denies Bid to Expand No-Excuse Mail-In Ballots in Texas

The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal means that the Texas law stays in place, delivering a win to election integrity advocates.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a legal challenge to a Texas law that requires voters under the age of 65 to provide justification to vote by mail, meaning that the Democrat-aligned attempt to sharply expand “no-excuse” mail-in ballots in the Lone Star state has failed, with implications for other states.

According to an April 22 order list, the high court denied petition for a writ of certiorari in a case that stems from a federal lawsuit filed in 2020 on behalf of the Texas Democratic Party and several voters who requested that Texas lift its age-based limitations on no-excuse mail-in voting.
Texas law only allows individuals to vote by mail without a qualifying excuse, like sickness, if they are 65 years or older. In their original complaint, which made its way through a number of lower courts before ending up before the Supreme Court, the petitioners alleged that the Texas voting law violates the 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits denying the right to vote due to age.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal means that the Texas law stays in place, delivering a win to election integrity advocates who argue that no-excuse mail-in voting is prone to fraud and makes elections less secure.

At the same time, the high court’s decision to deny certiorari is a setback for groups who see laws like Texas’s age-based limits on no-excuse mail-in ballots as “voter suppression” or an unfair attempt to impose barriers to voting for certain groups, in this case younger voters.

The high court’s decision not to hear the appeal has broader implications, however, since six other states–Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee–have similar laws on the books that let older voters to request absentee ballot without having to provide any justification.

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More Details

In their initial petition filed in 2020 on behalf of the Texas Democratic Party and a group of voters amids the COVID-19 pandemic, the plaintiffs requested that Texas lift its age-based restrictions to no-excuse mail-in voting, citing public health risks related to the outbreak.

Led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Texas officials then filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which paused the district court’s ruling while the appeal played out.
The plaintiffs then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reimpose the district court’s decision to freeze enforcement of the age-based limits to no-excuse mail-in voting, or to take the case up for review, but the high court rejected both requests.
Ultimately, the 5th Circuit voided the lower court’s May 2020 order in full. This led the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint in the district court, this time asserting other claims, including ones of racial discrimination under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and arguing that the age limitations on mail-in ballots violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th and 26th Amendments.
In a July 2022 order, the district court judge dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims, leading to another appeal before the 5th Circuit, which ultimately affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss.
The plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2023, asking the high court to declare Texas’s age-based voting law unconstitutional.

The court declined to review the plaintiffs’ appeal, leaving Texas’s age restrictions in place and denying a bid to expand no-excuse mail-in voting in the Lone Star state.

The Epoch Times has reached out to counsel for both petitioners and respondents with a request for comment on the high court’s decision.

Election Integrity or Voter Suppression?

The Supreme Court ruling comes amid a broader fight between those who see election integrity efforts as “voter suppression” and those who believe that the security of U.S. elections is too lax and should be tightened.

According to a running tally by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice, expansive voting laws far outpaced restrictive ones in 2023.

At least 53 expansive voting laws were introduced last year in at least 23 states, compared to 17 restrictive laws being passed in 14 states, suggesting that the election integrity movement is falling behind.

Amid concerns over voter fraud, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently suggested that to win the presidential election in November, Republicans need to outvote Democrats by a significant margin.

“Everybody who wants an honest election should know that in the long run, we need the French model: Everybody votes on the same day, everybody has a photo ID, everybody’s accounted as a person,” Mr. Gingrich said in a February interview on Fox News.

“But until we get to that, if Republicans want to win this year, under the rules that exist this year, they need to outvote the Democrats by about 5 percent, which is a margin big enough that it can’t be stolen,” he said.

Elsewhere, an election integrity monitor laid out over a dozen “critical” reforms that it believes are necessary in order to secure voter integrity in the 2024 election, including outlawing ranked choice voting and non-citizen voting, consolidating election dates, requiring voter ID, and safeguarding vulnerable mail ballots.

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