State of Texas

Texas Mail-in Voting Limitations Challenge

Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott

Lawsuit brought by the Texas Democratic Party and voters challenging portions of the Texas Election Code that impose limitations on qualifications for voters who wish to cast no-excuse mail-in ballots. Specifically, the plaintiffs challenge portions of Texas’ election law that only allow voters to cast no-excuse mail-in ballots if they are 65 years old (those who have a qualifying excuse such as sickness or disability can also vote by mail). The plaintiffs argue that, in light of the public health risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s limitations on mail-in voting should be changed to allow all registered voters, regardless of their age, to vote by mail without an excuse. The lawsuit alleges that the state’s restrictions on mail-in voting violate the 14th and 26th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) because the challenged limitations disproportionately harm minority voters and result in racial discrimination. 

In May 2020, the district court issued a preliminary injunction which blocked Texas from threatening criminal prosecution and denying mail-in ballots to voters under the age of 65 who wished to vote by mail during the pandemic. The defendants appealed this order to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the district court’s preliminary injunction and rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the state’s age limitation violated the 26th Amendment for abridging Texans’ right to vote based on age. The plaintiffs also petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court asking them to reverse the 5th Circuit’s stay of the district court’s preliminary injunction, but their application was denied. In addition, the plaintiffs petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, asking them to hear the case in full, but this petition was also denied.

In April 2021, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in the district court, reasserting their racial discrimination claims under Section 2 of the VRA and arguing that the state’s age limitations on absentee voting violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th and 26th Amendments. On July 22, 2022, a district court judge dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims, stating that they were “based on speculative future election policies and pandemic conditions.” Therefore, the case cannot proceed with respect to any of the plaintiffs’ claims and the state’s current age limitations for no-excuse mail-in voting remain in effect.

On Aug. 16, 2022, some of the plaintiffs appealed the district court’s dismissal of their claims to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Sept. 6, 2023, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal. On Dec. 8, 2023, the plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to declare the challenged Texas’ law — which limits no-excuse mail-in voting to people 65 years or older — in violation of the 26th Amendment.

Result: On April 22, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the plaintiffs’ appeal of the dismissal, thereby leaving Texas’ age restrictions in place.

Case Documents (district court)

Case Documents (5th circuit)

Case Documents (U.s. supreme court)

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