The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily reinstated the governor’s ban on multiple drop-off sites for mail-in ballots, giving United States President Donald Trump a short-term victory ahead of the November 3 presidential election.
The ban will remain in effect while the state Supreme Court reviews an appeal court’s ruling that overturned Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s October 1 order limiting Texas counties to one drop-off site each, regardless of population size.
The Texas Supreme Court asked both sides to file their responses for review by 5pm local time (22:00 GMT) on Monday before it will issue a final decision on the matter.
The stay came hours after the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with a lower court that limiting the number of drop boxes would lengthen lines, increase the risk that voters could get COVID-19, and infringe on their right to vote.
Abbott said his decision to limit drop-off locations was aimed at preventing voter fraud, but the move, which closed more than a dozen satellite locations, drew condemnation from Democrats and voting rights advocates.
Trump has repeatedly criticised mail-in ballots, claiming without evidence that they would lead to widespread fraud.
Texas, which Trump won by nine percentage points in 2016, has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in more than four decades.
Opinion polls have suggested it might be in reach for Biden, however, in part because of dissatisfaction with Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s election is expected to be unprecedented in terms of how many voters cast their ballots by mail in light of the pandemic.
The situation has put a spotlight on states’ individual policies when it comes to who can vote by mail and how, with some challenges still wending through courts across the country just 10 days before Election Day.
Only three states – Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee – do not allow mail-in ballots to be delivered in person, according to the FiveThirtyEight news website.
On Thursday, a state court in Missouri ruled against a challenge to that policy.
On October 10, a federal judge rejected the Trump re-election campaign’s attempts to block the use drop boxes for mail-in ballots in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, saying the campaign’s claims that the boxes lead to higher fraud was speculative.