AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an administrative stay in the federal vote-by-mail lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party.

This temporarily puts the expansion of vote-by-mail on hold, again, while the case proceeds.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the appeal Wednesday, May 20, in response to a U.S. District Court’s decision to expand vote-by-mail to all Texas voters.

“Mail-in ballots are vulnerable to fraud,” Paxton said in a statement Wednesday. “Two-thirds of all election fraud cases prosecuted by my office involve mail ballot fraud, also known as ‘vote harvesting.’ Allowing widespread mail-in ballots will lead to greater fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters.”  

A federal judge had granted the Texas Democratic Party’s motion for a preliminary injunction in the vote-by-mail lawsuit on Tuesday, May 19.

This would enable counties to permit the use of absentee ballots due to COVID-19 without the threat of prosecution.

U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed with the Texas Democratic Party that voters would face irreparable harm if current restrictions, requiring an excuse for those under the age of 65 to vote by mail, remain in place for the election. Part of the official preliminary injunction reads:

“The Court concludes, that during the COVID-19 pandemic, younger voters bear a disproportionate burden because the age restrictions of Tex. Elec. Code § 82.003, that Tex. Elec. Code § 82.003 is a government classification based on age and discriminates against voters under the age of 65 based on age, and that Tex. Elec. Code § 82.003 violates the 26th Amendment, as applied, during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Judge Fred Biery, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Judge Biery’s decision is a step in the right direction.

“The right to vote is central to our democracy. This ruling means eligible voters can vote by mail during this pandemic. It is time for a few state officers to stop trying to force people to expose themselves to COVID-19 in order to vote,” Hinojosa said.

It’s separate from a state lawsuit, in which a district court judge ruled in April in favor of expanding vote-by-mail during this pandemic.

A state appeals court upheld that decision on Thursday, May 14. But, a day later, the Texas Supreme Court granted Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request for a stay order, meaning the expansion of vote by mail will be temporarily put on hold while he continues to appeal the district judge’s decision.

The federal court’s decision Tuesday supersedes state orders, however.