Voting Rights

Texas doesn't need to tell mail-in voters their ballot was rejected until after the election, appellate court rules

October 20, 2020

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided Monday that Texas doesn't have to inform voters that their mail-in ballots were rejected due to signature problems until after the Nov. 3 election, and need not give them a chance to correct or "cure" their ballots. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Sept. 8 that the current signature-verification system in Texas "plainly violates certain voters' constitutional rights" and must be either abandoned or replaced.

The 5th Circuit appellate court stayed Garcia's ruling Sept. 11, and it won't rule on the merits of the case until after the election. Under current law, Texas must inform voters that their ballot was rejected within 10 days after the election. "The state election code does not establish any standards for signature review, which is conducted by local election officials who seldom have training in signature verification," The Texas Tribune reports. Counties can choose to inform voters before the election and give them a chance to cure their ballot.

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Texas already limits mail-in voting to people with disabilities, seniors 65 and older, and voters outside of the country or in jail during an election. "Texas' strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of its elections from voter fraud far outweighs any burden the state's voting procedures place on the right to vote," Judge Jerry Smith, a Ronald Regan appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel. The conjuring judges were appointed by Reagan and President Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), up for re-election this year, claimed voting is easy in Texas, pointing to the large numbers of Texans casting their ballots early this election. But a new study out of Northern Illinois University ranked Texas at the very bottom of its "cost-of-voting index."

"Obviously, it's not impossible to vote in Texas," but "the state has erected obstacles throughout the voting system, and when you compare the comfort and convenience of voting in Texas with other states, Texas ends up at the bottom of the list," Ross Ramsay writes at The Texas Tribune. Probably not coincidentally, he adds, "Texas has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country." The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Texas in several recent cases, rejecting efforts to make voting easier, the Austin American-Statesman notes. Peter Weber

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