A Trump-appointed appeals court judge has sided with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to limit absentee ballot drop-off locations across Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip File)
A Trump-appointed appeals court judge has sided with Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to limit absentee ballot drop-off locations across Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip File)

The appeals court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s rule that limited each Texas county to one absentee ballot drop-off location. The governor’s move was criticized as a voter suppression tactic.

A federal appeals court has reinstated a limit on the number of mail ballot drop-off locations in each county in Texas. Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan—a conservative appointed by President Trump to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017—agreed with Republican Gov. Greg Abbot.

The appeals court late Monday issued a stay of a federal judge’s ruling that came just last Friday, which said that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order is a likely violation of a voter’s right to vote. The motion effectively means that Abbott’s rule will remain in effect.

“Leaving the Governor’s October 1 Proclamation in place still gives Texas absentee voters many ways to cast their ballots in the November 3 election,” Duncan wrote in the opinion. “These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-COVID world. The October 1 Proclamation abridges no one’s right to vote.”

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Abbott’s order limits each county to one location in each county where voters could drop off mail ballots during early voting for the November elections. That means some of the most populated counties in the United States have the same number of ballot drop-off locations as rural, sparsely populated counties.

The appeals court, however, noted that Abbott’s order also provides Texas voters with 40 additional days to vote absentee and they have many ways to cast ballots, including hand-delivering them or mailing them. “These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-COVID world. The October 1 Proclamation abridges no one’s right to vote,” Duncan wrote.

If mailing an absentee ballot in Texas, your ballot must be postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. Early voting is generally available from today, Oct. 13, through Oct. 30 in Texas, however hours and dates vary by location, so it’s crucial that voters check with their local election boards.

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Abbott said the limit on drop-off sites is needed to ensure election security, while Democrats and voting rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, called it an effort to suppress voters.

“This isn’t the first time Abbott and Texas Republicans have tried to suppress the vote,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the Texas Democratic Party chairman, said in a statement about the rule. “And it won’t be the last.”

The lawsuit challenging Abbott’s order was filed by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, the National League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Women Voters of Texas, and two voters.

Reporting was also contributed by Kyle Valenta of COURIER Newsroom.