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Case Name Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott VR-TX-0449
Docket / Court 5:20-cv-00438-FB ( W.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project. So for more current information, see their tracker. COVID-19 Summary: On April 7, 2020, the Chair of the Texas Democratic ... read more >
NOTE: This case is being tracked in close to real time by the Stanford/MIT Healthy Elections Project. So for more current information, see their tracker. COVID-19 Summary: On April 7, 2020, the Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, the Texas Democratic Party, and individual voters filed this lawsuit in the Western District of Texas in order to secure expanded vote-by-mail in advance of primary election runoffs scheduled for July and the November general election. On May 19, the court granted a preliminary injunction allowing voters to vote by mail, which the defendants appealed. On June 4, the Fifth Circuit stayed the injunction and the case was petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is ongoing.


On April 7, 2020, the Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, the Texas Democratic Party, and individual voters filed this lawsuit in the Western District of Texas. The plaintiffs sued the Governor of Texas, the Texas Secretary of State, the Travis County Clerk, and the Bexar County Elections Administrator under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that under the 14th and 15th Amendments, holding traditional elections would impose unconstitutional and illegal burdens on voters unless officials clarify state law to expand voting by mail in light of the state’s attempts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, on March 20, 2020, some of the plaintiffs had filed a state court lawsuit seeking to determine the application of state law. (That one is VR-TX-0448 in the Clearinghouse.) There, the plaintiffs argued that state law allows voters to choose to cast their ballots by mail under the circumstances of the pandemic. According to the complaint, Texas authorities supported the conclusion that state law permits mail-in ballots under the circumstances of the pandemic. After a hearing on April 15, the court granted a temporary order allowing mail-in votes for the July elections due to the pandemic, with a hearing scheduled later on August 10 to determine what happens after the July elections. The ruling was later affirmed by the Fourteenth Circuit. The state appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of Texas, which ruled that residents do not qualify under current state rules to receive a mail-in ballot.

The plaintiffs decided to file the subsequent federal suit in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the Wisconsin primary on April 6, 2020. In that case, found here in the Clearinghouse, the Supreme Court held that it was too late to remedy constitutional harms. Thus, the plaintiffs here decided to act as early as possible, according to their complaint.

On April 29, 2020, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, including a Fourteenth Amendment Procedural Due Process claim and a voter intimidation claim. The same day, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. Specifically, the relief sought included (1) allowing the plaintiffs and voters like the plaintiffs to be eligible to receive a mail ballot, to cast that ballot, and to have that ballot counted by the appropriate authority; and, (2) enjoining the defendants from threatening voters or voter groups with criminal or civil sanction for voting by mail or communicating with or assisting voters in the process of vote by mail.

On May 11, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens sought to intervene. The motion was denied on May 13, as the request was within forty-eight hours of the scheduled hearing.

The defendants responded to the motion for preliminary injunction on May 12, claiming that sovereign immunity barred injunctive relief and requested that the Court abstain from ruling on the claims until the conclusion of the state court litigation, which was ongoing at the time.

On May 14, the Public Interest Legal Foundation and Landmark Legal Foundation filed an amicus brief in opposition to the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. The same day, Harris County filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction.

The court granted the plaintiff's preliminary injunction on May 19, stating that any eligible Texas voter who seeks to vote by mail in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19 can apply for, receive, and cast an absentee ballot in upcoming elections during the pendency of pandemic circumstances and that the defendants may not deny any mail ballots received. 2020 WL 2541971. The order remained valid until a judgment on the matter was issued, or the pandemic subsides.

The same day, the defendants immediately appealed to the Fifth Circuit. The Bexas County Elections Administrator and the Attorney General of Texas moved to dismiss the case on May 21 and May 27, respectively.

On June 4, the Fifth Circuit stayed the preliminary injunction pending appeal. 2020 WL 2982937. The court found that there was no evidence that the state had prevented the plaintiffs from voting. This decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court the next day. On June 16, the district court stayed the case pending the conclusion of the appellate proceedings related to the preliminary injunction order. On June 26, the Supreme Court refused to vacate the stay.

On July 7, plaintiffs sought to expedite their appeal, which was granted on July 17. The appeal is ongoing and an oral argument was heard on August 31.

Lily Sawyer-Kaplan - 04/08/2020
Averyn Lee - 09/17/2020


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Language discrimination
Race discrimination
General
Voting
Voting access
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Denied
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Race, unspecified
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Voting Rights Act, section 2, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973)
Defendant(s) Bexar County Clerk
Governor of Texas
Texas Secretary of State
Travis County Clerk
Plaintiff Description The plaintiffs are the Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, the Texas Democratic Party, and individual voters.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
None
Source of Relief None yet
None
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 04/07/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott
Campaign Legal Center
Date: May 11, 2020
By: Campaign Legal Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
5:20-cv-438 (W.D. Tex.)
VR-TX-0449-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
VR-TX-0449-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint [ECF# 9]
VR-TX-0449-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2020
Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 10]
VR-TX-0449-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Defendants' Response to Lulac and Texas Lulac's Motion to Intervene [ECF# 37, 37-1]
VR-TX-0449-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/12/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Defendant's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 39, 39-1, 39-2, 39-3, 39-4, 39-5]
VR-TX-0449-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/12/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Texas House of Representatives as Amici Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 44]
VR-TX-0449-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of the Republican Party of Texas as Amicus Curie in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 48]
VR-TX-0449-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen's Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 49 & 49-1]
VR-TX-0449-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Reply in Support of its Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 56]
VR-TX-0449-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amicus Brief of Harris County, Texas in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 66 & 66-1]
VR-TX-0449-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amici Curiae Brief of Public Interest Legal Foundation and Landmark Legal Foundation in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 73]
VR-TX-0449-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Regarding Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 90] (2020 WL 2541971) (W.D. Tex.)
VR-TX-0449-0012.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/19/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 95]
VR-TX-0449-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Ruth Hughs's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 107]
VR-TX-0449-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/21/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Response to Renewed Motion of League of United Latin American Citizens and Texas League of United Latin American Citizens to intervene as Plaintiffs Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 [ECF# 108]
VR-TX-0449-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Defendants' Response to Lulac and Texas Lulac's Renewed Motion to Intervene [ECF# 111 & 111-1]
VR-TX-0449-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant Ken Paxton's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 112]
VR-TX-0449-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Opinion] [Ct. of App. ECF# 00515441096] (2020 WL 2982937)
VR-TX-0449-0018.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/04/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Application to Vacate the Fifth Circuit's Stay of the Order Issued by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas
VR-TX-0449-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/16/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
Respondents' Opposition to Application to Vacate Fifth Circuit Stay of Preliminary Injunction
VR-TX-0449-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/22/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
Reply to Respondents' Opposition to the Application to Vacate the Fifth Circuits Stay
VR-TX-0449-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
show all people docs
Judges Biery, Samuel Frederick Jr. (W.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0012 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Costa, Gregg Jeffrey (S.D. Tex., Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0018
Ho, James Chiun-Yue (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0018
Smith, Jerry Edwin (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0018
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brazil, Kemble Scott (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0001 | VR-TX-0449-0002 | VR-TX-0449-0003 | VR-TX-0449-0009 | VR-TX-0449-0015 | VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Derfner, Armand Georges (South Carolina) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020
Dunn, Chad W (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0001 | VR-TX-0449-0002 | VR-TX-0449-0003 | VR-TX-0449-0009 | VR-TX-0449-0015 | VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Fisher, Jeffrey L. (California) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020
Fletcher, Brian H (California) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020
Golando, Martin (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0001 | VR-TX-0449-0002 | VR-TX-0449-0003 | VR-TX-0449-0009 | VR-TX-0449-0015 | VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Grigg, Richard Alan (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0001 | VR-TX-0449-0002 | VR-TX-0449-0003 | VR-TX-0449-0009 | VR-TX-0449-0015 | VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Karlan, Pamela S. (California) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020
Meyerhoff, Robert Leslie (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0019 | VR-TX-0449-0020 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abrams, Michael (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Albright, Thomas A. (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017
Bangert, Ryan L (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017
Dippel, Leslie (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-9000
Emmert, Wade (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0007
Gonzales, Joe D (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0008 | VR-TX-0449-0013
Green, Robert D (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0008 | VR-TX-0449-0013 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Hawkins, Kyle (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0021
Mackin, Anne Marie (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Mateer, Jeffrey C (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017
McCarty, Darren L (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017
Paxton, Ken (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017 | VR-TX-0449-0021
Pettit, Lenora C. (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0021
Scanlon, Cory A (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0004 | VR-TX-0449-0005 | VR-TX-0449-0014 | VR-TX-0449-0016 | VR-TX-0449-0017 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Talley, Sharon (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-9000
Thomas, Sherine Elizabeth (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-9000
Veidt, Cynthia W (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-9000
Williams, Andrew W (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-9000
Other Lawyers Adams, J Christian (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0011
Forys, Matthew C (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0011
Garza, Jose (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0006 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Hays, Susan (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0010 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Holt, Dallin B (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0007 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Lemond, Scott (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0010
O’Neill, Michael J (Virginia) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0011
Phillips, Kaylan L. (Indiana) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0011
Ryan, Vince (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0010
Taylor, [William] [Andy] Andrew [Andy] (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-0011 | VR-TX-0449-9000
Vera, Luis R. Jr. (Texas) show/hide docs
VR-TX-0449-9000

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