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Efforts to expand mailed-in voting has spread through courtrooms and state legislatures. Advocates for expanding voting suffered three defeats recently.

Voting rights advocates suffer three losses

After a string of recent successes, advocates for improving the fairness of elections and expanding access to voting amid the coronavirus pandemic have suffered three defeats in recent days.

The setbacks came in Texas, Arizona and Iowa — all states where the Democrats believe they can score big upsets, at the presidential and congressional levels, if the voting rules are easeds enough to allow significant turnout this fall — no matter the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

The way elections are conducted has been the subject of several dozen lawsuits in state and federal courts as well as battles in numerous state legislatures. Who wins the bulk of them could shape not only President Trump's chances of reelection but also whether the Senate stays in Republican hands or turns Democratic.

The recent decisions are:

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A line to vote in the primary in Houston in March. The wait for some Texans was four hours.

Texas won’t see a revival of straight-ticket voting this year

Straight-ticket voting won't be returning to Texas now that a federal judge has rejected an effort by Democrats to maintain the practice.

Allowing Texans to cast one quick vote, in favor of one party's entire slate of candidates, has been allowed for a century and was the way two-thirds of 2018 ballots were cast in the second most populous state. But the Republican-majority Legislature eliminated that option starting this fall, joining a wave of other states in recent years.

The state Democratic Party sued in March to keep the system as is, but Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo dismissed the claim on Wednesday by rejecting its central argument: Switching will cause so much confusion and delay in November that throngs of would-be voters will give up and walk away, effectively being disenfranchised in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

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Texas primary

Texas holds its state primary runoff (postponed from May 26).

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Texas is among the very few states not making absentee voting easier during the pandemic. Turnout in places like San Antonio, above on primary day in March, is key to Democrats' hopes.

Unfettered voting by mail in Texas stopped by federal appeals court

A federal appeals court has joined the Texas Supreme Court in deciding that fear of exposure to the coronavirus is not an acceptable reason to vote by mail in the second most-populous state.

The back-to-back decisions, by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday and the state's highest court a week ago, end the possibility for Texans to legally cite a lack of immunity to the virus as a "disability" excuse in requesting an absentee ballot — at least for the July primary runoffs.

There is still a chance the U.S. Supreme Court will step in before the presidential election, when recent polling suggests the state could be genuinely competitive for the first time in four decades. It's also the case that vote-by-mail applications are on an honor system and people should be trusted to assess their own health, the state's top court has made clear.

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