Travis County Judge Blocks Abbott’s Order Limiting Ballot Delivery Sites

Texas AG Ken Paxton has appealed decision to Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals

Following Gov. Abbott's order, the Travis County Tax Office at 5501 Airport Blvd. is the only location in Travis County where voters can hand-deliver their mail-in ballots. (Photo by Jana Birchum)

A Travis County judge has blocked Governor Greg Abbott’s proclamation limiting ballot delivery sites to one location per county.

Earlier today Judge Tim Sulak of the 353rd District Court granted a temporary injunction in a lawsuit filed last week in Travis County district court by Anti-Defamation League Austin, Common Cause Texas, and Texas voter Robert Ketsch arguing that Abbott’s Oct. 1 order – which forced Travis and Harris counties to close multiple ballot delivery locations – violates state law and the Texas Constitution.

Sulak’s ruling comes just days after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Abbott’s order after overturning a lower court’s ruling in a parallel but separate lawsuit filed in federal court. ADL and Common Cause Texas’ suit argues Abbott does not have the authority to limit ballot delivery sites under the Texas Election Code, which designates local election officials, not the governor, as those with authority to manage and conduct the early voting process. Plaintiffs also argue that the proclamation violates Texas voters’ equal protection rights under the Texas Constitution.

Sulak wrote in Thursday’s ruling, “The limitation to a single drop-off location for mail ballots would likely needlessly and unreasonably increase risks of exposure to COVID-19 infections, and needlessly and unreasonably substantially burden potential voters’ constitutionally protected rights to vote, as a consequence of increased travel and delays, among other things.” Sulak set a hearing for the plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction for Nov. 9; however, as other outlets have reported, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly filed an appeal that puts Sulak's decision on hold until Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals reviews it.

This is a developing story; stay tuned online and in next week’s print issue for updates.

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November 2020 election, Greg Abbott, vote-by-mail, Anti-Defamation League Austin, Common Cause Texas, Tim Sulak, 3rd Court of Appeals, 353rd District Court

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