Masks Are Still Optional for Comal Voters Despite Ruling by Federal Judge
Face coverings are still optional for Comal County voters in the wake of a Tuesday ruling by a federal judge that Gov. Greg Abbott cannot exclude polling locations from his statewide mask mandate.
Comal County Public Information Officer Cary Zayas said today nothing will change for voters as local officials await clarification from the state about a temporary ruling issued by U.S.District Judge Jason Pulliam, who argued the exemption creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters who face longer lines at the polls and are considered to be at higher risk from the coronavirus.
“Making polling sites subject to the statewide mask mandate will not dissuade citizens from voting due to disruption, but will provide the opportunity to vote to an otherwise burdened class,” Pulliam ruled.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who represents state agencies and officials, today filed an emergency petition asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the judge’s decision.
In July, Mi Familia Vota and the Texas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a broader lawsuit arguing that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to become infected and more likely to die of COVID-19.
In a written argument submitted last week, they said minority voters also face longer lines at the polls, which increases their risk of transmission by exposing them to crowds of other voters and poll workers.
“Under these conditions, Black and Latino voters must choose between not voting or risking their lives or the lives of their loved ones to vote,” the groups said. “White voters do not face the same level of risk.”
Paxton argued that most states don’t require masks at polling locations and that it’s too late anyway.
“Texas is on track to smash its prior turnout record, even during the pandemic and in counties with large minority populations,” he said in his filing.
Gary Bledsoe, president of Texas’ NAACP, disagrees.
“The Judge already has been vindicated, as last night we received reports of polling officials in Texas testing positive for the coronavirus, and other polling places being required to close down because of sick poll workers,” he said in a statement. “And, this past weekend, we received reports of poll workers who were using their maskless presence to approach and intimidate minority voters.”
Early voting ends Friday.