Judge says Texas mask mandate must extend to polling places

A federal judge has ruled that Texas’ statewide mask mandate must extend to inside polling places

Texas is three weeks into early voting, but Pulliam said enforcing a mask order would not be disruptive.

The ruling comes as COVID-19 cases are flaring again in Texas, which on Tuesday reported more than 5,500 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 — a more than 70% increase since the beginning of October. Along the U.S. border with Mexico, a record surge in coronavirus cases is pushing hospitals to the brink in the twin cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

“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 wrote in his order Tuesday.

“Thus, to avoid confusion, we will continue our policy of accommodating all voters, providing those who need it with protective equipment, and strongly encouraging all voters to wear masks at the polls,” Hollins said.

The lawsuit was filed by the Texas NAACP and Mi Familia Vota, a Latino rights group.

Texas has had a statewide mask mandate since July, but Republican Gov. Greg Abbott carved out an exception for polling places. Early voting ends Friday in Texas, which is already close to surpassing the nearly 9 million people who voted in 2016's general election.

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Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado contributed to this report