Judge Robert Pitman agreed, writing, “By limiting ballot return centers to one per county, elderly and disabled voters living in the largest and most populous counties in Texas must travel further distances to more ballot return centers. crowded where they would be most at risk of being infected with the coronavirus to exercise the right to vote and get it counted “.
“Frankly, it should come as a shock to all of us that such a ruling is even required,” Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
CNN reached out to Abbott’s office for comment Friday.
Before early voting began in Texas on October 13, the directive required large counties, regardless of population and area, to limit the number of delivery points for mail order cards to one. Abbott, a Republican, had argued that the directive was necessary to ensure that safe deposit boxes remained safe. But the judge said the risk of depriving voters of voting rights outweighed those concerns.
The judge was also troubled by Abbott̵
“Public interest is not served by Texas’ continued enforcement of a proclamation that plaintiffs have proven likely violates their fundamental right to vote,” Pitman wrote.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and some voters’ concerns about in-person voting, absenteeism requests and ballot papers by mail have increased in the United States.
In Texas, state Republicans successfully blocked Democrats’ attempts to expand mail-order voting, citing voter fraud. While there are rare cases of voter fraud due to mail-order voting, it is nowhere near a widespread problem in the US electoral system.
In his statement announcing the move last week, Abbott said cutting mailbox positions “would maintain the integrity of our elections.”
“As we work to preserve the ability of Texans to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to take special care to strengthen statewide voting security protocols. These improved security protocols will ensure greater transparency and help stop attempts. illegal voting, “Abbott said on Oct.1.
The state’s justifications for the directive, Pitman wrote, “do not present a sufficiently relevant and legitimate interest in light of the burden it places on plaintiffs,” adding that voting rights groups have shown that the directive “probably violates the their fundamental right to vote under the first and fourteenth amendments “.
Pitman also wrote that because of the directive, “absentee voters must choose between the risk of coronavirus exposure to deliver their ballots in person or the deprivation of civil rights if the USPS is unable to deliver the ballots on time. “.
Prior to Abbott’s order, several counties had already begun distributing more locations for absentee voting. Harris County, the state’s most populous county and a Democratic stronghold, had to reduce its 12 retreat locations to one on October 2. Over 40% of Harris County residents are Latino and nearly 20% are black.
Texas has traditionally been Republican for the past several decades, but Democrats think it is at stake in the November election. Several polls have found a close race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in the Lone Star State.
This story has been updated with more information on the decision and context.
CNN’s Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.