Drop-off ballot box battle continues in Texas, Appeals Court grants stay on governor’s order

It seems like only yesterday that I wrote about an Obama-appointed federal judge blocking the order from Governor Abbott in Texas to limit drop-off ballot boxes. As it turns out, I did. And, just like that, the latest move in the battle to keep election integrity strong in Texas changes the story again.

Saturday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a temporary stay while the case is appealed. This means that Governor Abbott’s executive order stands for now – a limit of one drop-off ballot box location per county. Governor Abbott wants the one box per county rule in order to maintain election integrity and fend off potential voter fraud. Democrats argue it is not about election security but voter suppression. Some voters who want to drop off a mail-in ballot instead of using the USPS will have to travel a long distance to do so.

A U.S. federal appeals court on Saturday issued a temporary stay that allows the Republican governor of Texas to continue limiting counties to a single drop-off site for absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

On Friday, a federal court had struck down Governor Greg Abbott’s limit on drop-off sites, which Democrats had denounced as voter suppression.

But on Saturday a panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said it granted a temporary stay while the case was appealed.

Early voting begins in Texas on Tuesday, October 13. Many mail-in ballots have already been returned and received by the county clerk’s offices across the state. Meanwhile, the battle over absentee ballots continues. Democrats are using the coronavirus to scare voters into using mail-in voting instead of showing up in person during early voting or on Election Day. Safety measures will be in place for in-person voting at polling locations and the early voting period has been lengthened in hopes of easing crowds on Election Day.

Texas is one of a few states that limit mail-in voting with specific requirements that must be met to qualify for an absentee ballot. Registered voters ages 65 and older, disabled voters and those who are ill, voters who will be outside the county during early voting and on Election Day, and those who are incarcerated but eligible to vote all qualify for mail-in voting. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the requirement that someone is suffering from an illness has been interpreted by Democrats to include a fear of catching the virus at a voting poll location. The county clerk in Harris County, for example, tried to use fear of the coronavirus as a justification for mailing out applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter (2.4 million) in the county. That plan has been stopped by the Supreme Court of Texas.

Democrats question the safety of mailing in ballots by using the USPS though there is a push for all states to universally use mail-in ballots. Democrats want it both ways – they want to scare voters into thinking that somehow the USPS is working in tandem with the Trump campaign to give Trump an advantage while also demanding drop-off ballot boxes due to concerns about the USPS’s ability to handle what is expected to be a big increase in mail-in ballots. That is an irrational claim, though. The USPS can handle millions of mail-in ballots if necessary just as it handles millions of pieces of mail during the holiday season every year.

Texas isn’t the only state that finds itself in court battling over drop-off ballot boxes. Ohio is mirroring Texas’s battle over multiple drop-off ballot box locations.

Multiple ballot drop boxes in Ohio counties again are disallowed as a federal appeals court issued a stay of a lower-court order late Friday.

In a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of a district judge’s order instructing Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to permit multiple drop boxes.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter election rules on the eve of an election … Here, the district court went a step further and altered election rules during an election,” the court opinion said.

“In all, we conclude that Ohio’s restrictions are reasonable and non-discriminatory,” and promote “uniformity, which in turn promotes the fair administration of elections,” the court wrote.

Time is running out. It will not be a surprise if more legal rulings come forward before Election Day. The craziness of 2020 just won’t let up.

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