Wearing masks will not be enforced at Texas polling stations, says a new judge’s decision, even though the state is on its way to a record turnout.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reinstated a state mask waiver issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott that allows voters and election workers to skip wearing face masks in elections.
Abbott’s masking mandate requires Texans to cover their mouths and noses in public places, but face masks are not required to be worn in polling stations or churches based on “constitutional purposes,” Abbott told KBTX-TV in July when the mandate was introduced.
Abbott said he was encouraging Texans to wear masks, but excluded voters and election workers from the national mandate to prevent people from being turned away at the polls because of a lack of face cover.
“Their constitutional rights will not be revoked simply because of a pandemic,” Abbott told KBTX.
U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam challenged Abbott’s waiver to create “practical and constitutionally necessary measures that both protect public health and guarantee voting rights” for all citizens of Texas, particularly black and Latin American citizens who are disproportionately affected by the novel corona virus.
Pulliam ruled on Tuesday that the exemption “creates a discriminatory burden on black and Latin American voters” and imposes an “electoral practice or procedure that results in the denial or restriction of voting rights of black and Latin American citizens based on race or color,” in violation of Section 2 of the 1965 Electoral Rights Act.
Immediately after the Pulliam verdict, Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hugh’s appeal, which resulted in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning the verdict.
Texas is on its way to a record turnout. With less than a week until Election Day, the state exceeded 94 percent of its total 2016 turnout on October 28, 2016.
According to the Texas Secretary of State, at least 8,449,858 personal and postal ballots were cast during the state’s early term on October 28. For comparison, for the entire 2016 presidential election, the Texas Secretary of State’s data shows 8,969,226 total votes cast.
The data also shows that there are 16,955,519 registered voters in Texas, which means that the state so far has a voter turnout of about 49.84 percent in 2020.
Abbott did not respond to Tekk.tv’s request for a comment in time for publication.