WASHINGTON – The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), Equal Citizens, and Common Cause filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States to challenge the State of Texas’ age restriction to apply for an absentee ballot. The case, Garcia v. Abbott (No. 19-1389) challenges a law that in spite of the pandemic, restricts young Americans from accessing no-excuse vote-by-mail while making it exclusively available to voters over the age of 65. In their amicus brief, the organizations argue that the unequal treatment of youth voters in the Texas vote-by-mail program violates the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which bans age discrimination in voting.
“Nearly 50 years ago, our country transcended partisan differences to overwhelmingly ratify the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which extended enfranchisement to Americans as young as 18 and outlawed age discrimination in access to the ballot. Our nation recognized that the participation of young voters is essential to the health of our democracy. We are filing this amicus brief to prevail upon the United States Supreme Court to uphold this legacy and protect the full rights established by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment,” explained Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights for The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “Our report on age discrimination in vote-by-mail laws demonstrates that states with age restrictions harm younger voters. Preventing youth voters from voting by mail, particularly in the midst of a pandemic, is textbook voter suppression. It sends the dangerous message that we do not care about the health or rights of our young voters.”
“COVID-19 does not discriminate by age and even if our senior population is most vulnerable to the virus, that does not mean that younger Texans are immune,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. “Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature are unnecessarily endangering the lives of millions of Texans by denying anyone under the age of 65 the right to vote safely by mail. Forcing even one Texan to choose between their health and casting a ballot is one too many.”
Jason Harrow, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Equal Citizens, added, “Recent court decisions, decided under extreme time and political pressure, have effectively written an important Amendment out of the Constitution. Worse, the decisions have redefined and narrowed the constitutional right to vote in the process. Our amicus brief highlights to the Supreme Court that this issue demands attention now, so that courts around the country are reminded that the text of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment really means what it says: no discrimination in voting on the basis of age.”
Unfortunately, in January 2021 the Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari in this matter, and the issue of age-based discrimination in access to no-excuse vote by mail persists in seven states.