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Opinion: A Texas federal court decision is the latest hit to voting rights in America

September 12, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. North Carolina is scheduled to begin sending out more than 600,000 requested absentee ballots to voters on Friday. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

We need stronger protection in the Constitution for the right to vote, writes Joshua A. Douglas. Others have rightly argued that we need a new constitutional amendment that affirmatively grants the right to vote to all citizens. The federal appeals court here recognized that the Constitution does not affirmatively grant the right to vote. The implications of that reality produce narrow decisions that harm voters.

Unfortunately, in a case out of Texas, a federal appeals court just construed the word "abridge" so narrowly as to render it almost a nullity, once again showing the federal courts' hostility to a broad understanding of the fundamental right to vote.

Plaintiffs challenged the Texas law as violating the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution, which provides, "The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age. "

The plaintiffs asserted that making an age distinction on who can vote absentee, especially during a pandemic, "abridges" the right to vote by diminishing the ability of younger people to cast a ballot—they simply have a harder time voting in this environment than older voters.

The court reasoned that, because younger voters can still vote in person, Texas has not "abridged" their right to vote on the basis of age.

The court wrote that "an election law abridges a person's right to vote for the purposes of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment only if it makes voting more difficult for that person than it was before the law was enacted or enforced. " The court required a baseline for comparison, and because voting is not "more difficult" for younger voters (it's just easier for older voters), the Texas law does not violate the constitutional command.

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