A limitation on the number of ballot drop-off locations in Texas will stay in place while a federal appeals court weighs a lower-court ruling that the decision by Gov. Greg Abbott probably violated voting rights, particularly for the elderly and disabled.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled against the Republican governor Friday in a 46-page decision that included an injunction barring the state from restricting each county in the state to a single drop-off location for ballots before Election Day.

Pitman called the governor’s decree “perplexing,” particularly because there will be multiple drop-off points per county on Election Day and because the state had already opened satellite drop-off locations within counties before the governor’s Oct. 1 proclamation.

The state immediately filed an appeal of the injunction, and the appeals court temporarily stayed the judge’s ruling, meaning the governor’s limitation on ballot drop-off sites will stay in effect until the higher court rules.

Long a conservative bastion, Texas is turning purple, and it’s happening in suburbs like those between Dallas and Fort Worth. (The Washington Post)

Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights group that sued the state, said the governor “is trying to prey on the fear of the pandemic, which will keep Hispanics from wanting to risk their lives by going to the polls in person.”

LULAC had argued in court papers that the one-drop-off-point rule would be particularly onerous in a place such as Harris County, where millions of Houston-area voters would have a single place to bring their ballots.

Pitman’s ruling also notes that the elderly and the ill would be particularly affected by the governor’s rule because those voters may be more fearful than most to go to a place that has long lines and more potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Texas has seen decades of legal battles over voting rights, but the stakes are higher this year as more voters are expected to mail in their ballots because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Similar legal fights are occurring around the country over the rules and procedures of voting in a pandemic, as Republican state leaders seek limitations on voting procedures and access in the name of election security and Democrats fight those limits in the name of voting rights.

President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that there is a risk of massive voter fraud in mail-in ballots, and his campaign has accused Democrats of trying to steal the election. Historically, mail-in ballot fraud has occurred in small, isolated batches surrounding local elections, but not on a large scale.