Texas counties have been barred from bringing criminal charges against local officials who encourage mail-in voting in the state.
U.S. District Court Judge Xavier Rodriguez on Friday approved a temporary block against a contentious provision in a new Texas election law. The decision pushes back against arguments made by the Texas Attorney General’s Office that blocking the provision at this point could confuse voters, according to CNN.
“[The injunction] does not affect any voting procedures,” Rodriguez reportedly wrote. “It simply prevents the imposition of criminal and civil penalties against officials for encouraging people to vote by mail if they are eligible to do so.”
Last year, the Republican-lead Texas state legislature passed a law that included the provision preventing public officials from sending a mail-in ballot application to a voter without them first requesting it or pre-filling any part of a mail-in ballot application, the news outlet noted.
Officials in Harris County, the state’s most populous county and includes the city of Houston, lauded the Friday decision, saying that they would now have the ability to contact potential voters ahead of the deadline for mail-in ballot applications, CNN reported.
“This is a fantastic result that will benefit voters across Texas,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee told the outlet in a statement.
Texas election officials can receive mail-in ballot applications until Feb. 18. Texas’s early in-person voting for primary elections begins on Monday, CNN noted.
The upcoming primary will reportedly be the first statewide election held in Texas since Republican-backed voting restrictions were approved last year.