Last week, U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit ruled for Texas in three lawsuits challenging the state’s election laws that were ruled in 2019 and 2020.
One case involved the repeal of straight-ticket voting in the 2020 election, another challenged the Texas system for verifying mail-in ballots, and the third case focused on four provisions of the election code that regulate voting by mail.
On Wednesday evening, in a series of 2-1 rulings, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the civil rights groups, political organizations, and voters had targeted the wrong state agency — the Texas secretary of state’s office — when they sought to overturn a string of voting laws and practices, as reported by Austin American-Statesman.
Because the secretary of state is not in charge of enforcing the challenged laws, the agency is protected by sovereign immunity in all three lawsuits, said the opinions written by Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan and joined by Judge Don Willett.
The three lawsuits ruled on Wednesday were:
1. A challenge by the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and two national Democratic organizations sought to overturn a 2017 law that ended straight-ticket voting.
2. A lawsuit by the NAACP of Texas, Voto Latino and the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans challenged provisions of the Texas Election Code that regulate voting by mail in Texas.
First, regulations require voters to pay for postage to mail a ballot. Second, they challenged the mandate that ballots be postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day and received by 5 p.m. on the next day. Third, it challenged signature-matching requirements for mailed ballots and a law that makes it a crime to possess another voter’s mail ballot.
3. According to Austin American-Statesman, a lawsuit by groups including the League of Women Voters of Texas and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities challenged the process of verifying mail-in ballots by ensuring that the voter’s signature on the outside envelope matches the signature on the vote-by-mail application.
In the end, the majority agreed the lawsuits mistakenly targeted the secretary of state’s office, when county election officials were responsible for enforcing those election laws.