Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott, No. 20-50407 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Section 82.003 of the Texas Election Code allows mail-in voting for any voter at least 65 years old but requires younger voters to satisfy conditions, such as being absent from the county on election day or having a qualifying disability. In light of the election-year COVID-19 pandemic, the district court entered a preliminary injunction requiring Texas officials to allow any Texan eligible to vote to do so by absentee ballot.
The Fifth Circuit held that the preliminary injunction was not properly granted on plaintiffs' Twenty-Sixth Amendment claim and vacated the injunction. After concluding that there are no jurisdictional impediments to plaintiffs' bringing their claims, the court held that the Twenty-Sixth Amendment confers an individual right to be free from the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of age, the violation of which allows for pursuing a claim in court. The court also held that an election law abridges a person's right to vote for the purposes of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment only if it makes voting more difficult for that person than it was before the law was enacted or enforced. In this case, plaintiffs' claim -- that the Twenty-Sixth Amendment prohibits allowing voters who are at least 65 years old to vote by mail without excuse -- fails because conferring a benefit on another class of voters does not deny or abridge plaintiffs' Twenty-Sixth Amendment right to vote. Therefore, Section 82.003 does not violate the Twenty-Sixth Amendment where the Texas Legislature's conferring a privilege to those at least age 65 to vote absentee did not deny or abridge younger voters' rights who were not extended the same privilege. The court remanded for further proceedings where equal protection issues may come to the fore.
This opinion or order relates to an opinion or order originally issued on June 4, 2020.