May 11, 2020
Texas Alliance for Retired Americans Sues State of Texas to Remove Barriers to Absentee Voting in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic
AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and one of its members filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Texas to protect the rights of older Texas voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alliance was joined in the suit by Voto Latino, the Texas Conference of the NAACP and four other individuals.
The lawsuit alleges that the State of Texas vote by mail requirements will force older voters to choose between protecting their health or casting a ballot they know will be counted.
The plaintiffs noted that the number of people voting absentee by mail has surged as the coronavirus outbreak spreads and is expected to reach record levels. Public health experts say that the state of Texas has not yet reached its peak number of coronavirus cases, and the Centers for Disease Control have said that Americans should expect a second deadly wave of infections in the fall. It is expected that high-risk people, including older Texans, will still be advised to practice self-isolation and social distancing in November and have no choice but to vote by mail.
However, the state’s onerous absentee ballot measures make it impossible for older Texans to cast a mail-in ballot and be confident it will count.
The plaintiffs are asking the District Court to mandate that Texas:
- Ensure that ballots postmarked by Election Day, but not yet received by a Supervisor of Elections due to mail delivery delays or disruptions, are counted;
- Permit any third party the voter chooses to submit their sealed ballots in person on their behalf;
- Provide pre-paid postage for all mail ballots; and
- Eliminate the Signature Match Requirement.
“There are more than 2.6 million seniors registered to vote in Texas. The state is asking them to take unnecessary risks with their health if they want to cast a ballot that will be counted,” said Richard Fiesta, executive director of the national Alliance for Retired Americans. “The Alliance for Retired Americans is committed to ensuring that all older Americans nationwide can exercise their right to vote, especially during this unprecedented public health crisis.”
“I have a constitutional right to vote, but Texas is making it impossible for me to cast my ballot without risking my health during the coronavirus health emergency,” said George “Eddie” Morgan, a member of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter in Dallas County. “I am 63 and have a serious disability that affects my lungs and makes me particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and at high-risk of contracting COVID-19. My doctor has put me under a strict quarantine and I cannot leave my home until there is no danger that I could catch the coronavirus.”
Mr. Morgan continued, “I have always voted and even work as precinct captain on election day. This year I have no choice but to vote by mail. However, I am very worried that my vote will never be counted. My disability affects my handwriting, and my absentee ballot could be thrown out because my signature does not match what is on file. Since I can’t leave my home, I am not sure I can get the postage needed to return the ballot. And even if I manage to get postage, there’s no guarantee that the Post Office will be able to deliver my ballot on time. I would like to ask someone to deliver my ballot to the Supervisor of Elections office for me, but that could get them arrested.”
“The right to vote is sacred and older Texans take our civic responsibility seriously,” said Tony Padilla, President of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and a registered voter who lives in Buda. “The court must act now to protect our right to vote. Seniors are most at risk of developing COVID-19 and we should not have to stand in long lines at polling sites to make sure our votes are actually counted.”
The lawsuit court filing can be found 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 Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida in addition to Texas.
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.
Contact: Lisa Cutler, firstname.lastname@example.org