Bar Exams in the Pandemic JURIST Digital Scholars
Federal appeals court denies expansion of mail-in-voting to younger Texas residents
andibreit / Pixabay
Federal appeals court denies expansion of mail-in-voting to younger Texas residents

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday declined to expand voting by mail to younger residents of Texas.

In an effort to mitigate the detrimental effects and potential spread of COVID-19, many states have expanded their vote-by-mail procedures for the November presidential election. This present lawsuit arose as a challenge to Texas Election Code § 82.033, which only permits early voting by mail for voters who anticipate being of the country, are sick or disabled, are 65 years of age or older, or are imprisoned. More specifically, plaintiffs argue that preventing them from participating in mail-in voting due to COVID-19 is a violation of their Twenty-Sixth Amendment rights.

Appellate judges dismissed this argument because Texas is taking all necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 while voting. The judges reasoned that “elected officials have placed in the hands of the voter the determination of whether in person voting will cause a likelihood of injury due to physical condition,” but the “lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a disability defined by the Election Code.” This determination undermines plaintiffs’ central argument because voters of any age with an underlying health condition or disability can utilize mail-in voting.

The judges concluded:

The plaintiffs based their Twenty-Sixth Amendment claim on the argument that differential treatment in allowing voters aged 65 and older to vote by mail without excuse constitutes, at least during the pandemic, a denial or abridgment of younger citizen’s right to vote on account of age. This claim fails because adding a benefit to another class of voters does not deny or abridge the plaintiffs’ Twenty-Sixth Amendment right to vote.