The decision is a blow to Texas Democrats, who brought the lawsuit and were hoping to expand access to mail-in voting for the November election. A lower court previously agreed with their claim that the Texas law illegally discriminated against younger voters.
But the appeals court reversed that decision on Thursday and sent the case back for further litigation.
“This claim fails because adding a benefit to another class of voters does not deny or abridge the plaintiffs’ Twenty-Sixth Amendment right to vote,” the judges said, referring to the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
The judges who sided with Texas — and the GOP elected officials who defended the state law — were appointed by President George W. Bush and President Jimmy Carter. The judge who dissented to part of the ruling was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
“I agree with (the) dissent that the failure to extend the right to vote absentee to those below age 65 likely violates the 26th Amendment,” CNN election law analyst Rick Hasen said in a blog post after the ruling, adding that he believes it is unlikely that Thursday’s decision would be reversed by the full Fifth Circuit of Appeals or by the Supreme Court, if there are further appeals.