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Trump-Appointed Judge Panel Reinstates Texas Governor Order Limiting Voters Access To Ballot Drop Boxes

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A federal three-judge panel, all appointed by President Donald Trump, unanimously reinstated Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting the use of absentee ballot drop boxes to one location per county, regardless of population.

The three judges of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a district judge’s preliminary injunction against Abbott’s October 1 directive. The ruling came just before midnight Monday Texas time.

Fifth Circuit Judge Stuart Duncan said the lower court erred by failing to view the governor’s order as part of a broader initiative aimed at making it easier for Texans to vote amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Civil rights groups and Democrats complained that the one-dropbox-location-per-county rule that Abbott abruptly imposed two weeks ago unfairly burdens large urban counties and has the potential to deter voters and create health hazards.

Abbott celebrated the ruling in a tweet. “Critics were clearly clueless about the legality of my action & simply voiced prejudicial political opinions,” he wrote.

Civil rights groups and minority state legislators who pressed the federal suit against Abbott’s order could ask the full bench of the appeals court to take up the issue, but their appeal is unlikely to find traction with the conservative court.