The Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Friday aimed at increasing access to vote by mail as the coronavirus spreads in the state.
The plaintiffs are “demanding a declaratory judgment that allows all eligible voters, who believe their health is in danger under the threat of COVID-19, the ability to cast their ballot by mail if they so choose," according to a press release.
The lawsuit was filed in Travis County District Court against the Texas secretary of state and Travis County Elections.
Texas has one of the most restrictive vote-by-mail programs in the country. Voters must be older than 65, disabled, out of the county or in jail to vote by mail in the state.
“We must do everything we can to guarantee access to the ballot box for individuals who are practicing social distancing and self-quarantining,” Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Current law says you can vote-by-mail if you are disabled and we believe COVID-19 puts the health of all of us at risk. This lawsuit will.”
Voting rights groups began raising concerns about the state’s ballot-by-mail program last week. Grace Chimene, the president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, said she wanted to see state leaders step up and say people worried about the virus should be able to vote by mail, because “disabled” is a broad term.
“I would like the secretary of state’s office to really explain who qualifies, who can vote absentee,” Chimene said. “I think it’s not super clear.”
In his statement, Hinojosa suggested there were ongoing conversations with Texas Republicans about these issues. However, he said, those conversations “fell apart last night because Republicans have no plan.”