October 09, 2020

Federal District Court Orders Texas to Provide More Ballot Return Locations

Siding with Retirees and Voting Advocates, Court Agrees that Governor Abbott’s Proclamation Created an Undue Burden to Voting

AUSTIN – In a significant development in the fight to remove burdensome requirements for voting, Judge Robert Pitman of the United States District for the Western District of Texas today issued a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order halting Governor Abbott’s proclamation which limited Texas counties from providing more than one location for mail ballot returns.

The order came as a result of a lawsuit filed October 3 by the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and Bigtent Creative, which is working to register and encourage young Texans to vote.

“Governor Abbott’s intervention was a blatant act of voter suppression. We are gratified that the Court recognized that,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Older Texans have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in Texas, and they should not have to stand in long lines to deliver a ballot so they will be assured it will count.”

“We appreciate the swift decision from the Court that will help protect the rights of millions of young Texans to have their voices heard this election,” said Ysiad Ferreiras, CEO of Bigtent Creative. “As an organization investing in, reaching, and mobilizing young voters of color, we know there is an active group of concerned Gen Z voters in Texas that are ready to stand up for change in the state. These are young people who would have otherwise been silenced by the governor’s Executive Order.”

Abbott’s proclamation effectively closed hundreds of ballot return locations that election officials throughout the state established or planned for, and would have forced thousands of older voters to choose between protecting their health or casting a ballot they know will be counted.

The complaint notes that for many voters who will vote by mail, the nearest drop-off location will now be dozens or even hundreds of miles away, forcing those voters to travel long distances to deliver their ballots to their county’s election administration or to put their ballots in the care of the Postal Service which has informed the state that Texas election mail will be delayed.

A copy of the court order is here.

This year the Alliance for Retired Americans, working with its state chapters, has filed lawsuits to protect vote by mail and absentee voters in Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in addition to Texas.

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The Texas Alliance for Retired Americans is a state affiliate of the national Alliance for Retired Americans and has more than 146,000 members statewide.

Bigtent Creative, an advocacy organization, partners with influencers on TikTok and other emerging social platforms to mobilize their followers to engage in the democratic process. In the past two months, the organization’s campaigns have registered over 25,000 voters, 85.9% of the voters Bigtent has registered on TikTok and other platforms are under 25 years old, and over 60% are women. Over 20% of their registrations have come from the state of Texas.

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