A federal court has rejected a bid by Texas Democrats to allow “pop-up” voting locations in the state.
It is the latest setback for the Democrats’ push to expand voting in Texas, where the Republican-run state legislature is readying to tighten election laws.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a case brought by the Texas Democratic Party to halt a state law banning mobile or pop-up early voting sites.
“Texas law generally requires counties to conduct early voting at their main county branch offices. Counties may also conduct early voting at other locations,” Judge Don Willett, a Trump appointee, wrote for the court in an opinion issued Friday.
The three-judge panel reasoned the Texas secretary of state, the named defendant, was “not sufficiently connected to the enforcement” of the 2019 law banning pop-up voting sites, so it sided against the Democrats and said the case should be dismissed.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the dismissal of what he called a “clearly partisan case.”
“Local officials are responsible for administering and enforcing election law as it pertains to polling places, and they […] fulfill their duty [in] order to stave off voter fraud and ensure that every legal vote cast by an eligible voter counts,” Mr. Paxton said.
Texas Democrats sued after a 2019 law barred counties from having pop-up voting sites, which are used in other states like California and allow voters to cast official ballots, drop off ballots, register to vote and obtain replacement ballots.
The Democrats claimed the Texas law violated the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Texas Democratic Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the court ruling or if it will appeal the case.
Democrats oppose most of the new election laws that Republicans say will improve election integrity.
Texas House Republicans passed a measure last week that makes it a felony to give a voter a mail-in ballot application if it wasn’t properly requested. The law would also ban using public funds for third-party groups to distribute mail-in ballot applications.
The measure would also allow poll watchers throughout Election Day, but it stripped a provision pushed by some conservatives to ban drive-through voting and restrict early voting.
The state Senate had already passed a different law, which restricted early voting hours and polling places in some counties. It also dictated how voters can get a vote-by-mail application.
Lawmakers from both Texas chambers are set to convene to form compromise legislation.
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