Texas voters will have access to vote-by-mail ballots during the global pandemic as a result of efforts by Chad Dunn, director of litigation for the Voting Rights Project.

Dunn, an attorney, brought suit on behalf of the Democratic Party in Austin, Texas, seeking to clarify election law in the state regarding eligibility for a mail-in ballot. Texas is among just 17 states that require voters to provide an excuse to receive a mail-in ballot, one of the strictest absentee ballot policies in the country.

The Texas effort was among several recent initiatives — initiated by Dunn along with colleagues  affiliated with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs — that advocate for wider access to vote-by-mail amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Representing Texas plaintiffs who fear contracting the novel coronavirus during in-person voting, Dunn successfully argued that physical distancing or being confined at home falls under the disability exception for a mail-in ballot in Texas. A judge agreed, saying he will issue a temporary injunction allowing such voters to cast mail-in ballots in upcoming elections.

“The right to vote is fundamental, and the judge’s ruling shows that public health must be at the forefront,” Dunn said after the hearing. “If the judge’s ruling holds, we will have ensured that all 16 million eligible Texans are able to safely vote in the July runoff elections and in November if they so choose.”