US Supreme Court Will Not Review Texas’ Age-Based Mail-In Voting Restrictions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court this morning denied a petition from three Texas voters who asked the justices to take up a case challenging the state’s age-based restrictions on mail-in voting.

Under Texas law, individuals are only eligible to vote by mail without a qualifying excuse (such as sickness) if they are 65 years or older on Election Day. Voters argued that the law violates the 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which expressly prohibits denying the right to vote on account of age.

With the Supreme Court declining to take up the voters’ appeal today, Texans who are younger than 65 must continue to provide a valid excuse if they need to vote by mail in future elections.

The voters’ December 2023 petition seeking review of the Texas law arose from a federal lawsuit filed in 2020 on behalf of the Texas Democratic Party and voters amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the plaintiffs requested that Texas lift its age-based limitations on no-excuse mail-in voting in light of pandemic-related public health risks. 

After a district court judge sided with the plaintiffs in May 2020 — temporarily blocking Texas’ age-based mail-in voting limitations — Texas officials appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which paused the district court’s ruling. As a result, the state’s no-excuse mail-in voting restrictions remained in place for the 2020 election. 

Following further litigation, the district court dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims, holding that they were “based on speculative future election policies and pandemic conditions.” The 5th Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court’s dismissal in a September 2023 order, prompting the individual plaintiffs to appeal to the  Supreme Court.

In their petition to the nation’s highest court, the trio of Texas voters underscored how “[t]he ability to vote by mail may be particularly important for younger voters” who often “face substantial barriers to voting in person, including lack of transportation, long lines, inability to find or access their polling place, and limited time off from work.”

Although cases of voter fraud are exceedingly rare, Texas’ top election official maintained in briefing to the Supreme Court that “limiting mail-in ballots to those who likely need—as opposed to want—them is entirely rational” and advances the state’s “compelling and undisputed need to prevent the very ‘real’ threat of voter fraud.” 

According to the Texas voters, their appeal had the potential to affect millions of younger members of the electorate beyond the Lone Star State, as several other states — including Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina — similarly limit no-excuse mail-in voting on the basis of age. 

As recently as August 2023, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Indiana’s mail-in voting restriction for voters under the age of 65, ruling that the limitations do not contravene the 26th Amendment. 

Find out more about Texas’ mail-in voting rules here.

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.