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Over the weekend, Austonia polled our readers: 85% say all Texans should be able to vote by mail in 2020.

State Democrats and civic organizations are pushing to expand mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the state's highest court—and against the backdrop of a national, decades-long partisan fight over voting rights.


Texas voters are eligible for a mail-in ballot if they are 65 years or older, disabled, out of the country during the voting period or in jail, and Travis County election officials say fear of contracting COVID-19 should be similarly qualifying.

But the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay on Friday blocking them from accepting mail-in voting applications from residents because of the pandemic; the case is ongoing.

Paxton staunchly opposes such an expansion. "Protecting the integrity of elections is one of my most important and sacred obligations," he said in a May 15 statement about the ruling, commending the Supreme Court's decision.

Mail-in voting has long been a politicized issue, with Republicans warning against the possibility of voter fraud and Democrats arguing that failing to let people vote by mail amounts to voter suppression.

Robert Henneke is general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin. The organization supports Paxton's interpretation of state law, which Henneke said helps prevent voter fraud and ensure election integrity.

Further, Henneke argued that there is no reason for voters to worry about contracting the coronavirus as the state continues its reopening plan. "The system is already safe," he said. "Voting now is as safe as going to the grocery store." Those who are at higher risk, such as the elderly and individuals with serious medical conditions, may already be eligible for mail-in voting, he added.

Most Americans disagree. According to a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans favor allowing any voter to vote by mail, and two-thirds said it is likely the presidential election will be disrupted by the pandemic. In a poll of Austonia readers, 85% said universal mail-in voting should be allowed in Texas this November.

Wesley Story, a communications associate for the advocacy group Progress Texas, said attacks on mail-in voting are politically motivated.

"Voting fraud has been something that has been used to suppress voters for a very long time now, especially in our state by Republicans in office," Story said. "But the fact of the matter is that rampant voter fraud is a myth and voter suppression is very real."

Expanding mail-in voting is generally believed to benefit Democrats because it increases voter turnout, especially among those for whom voting in person may be inconvenient. However, a recent study by researchers at the Democracy & Polarization Lab at Stanford University found that universal mail-in voting "does not affect either party's share of turnout or either party's vote share."

Story also argued that increasing mail-in voting would help protect Texans' rights, pointing to other states—including red ones such as Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio—where officials have done so because of the pandemic. "By not expanding access to vote-by-mail our Republican leaders are essentially forcing Texans to choose between their health and safety and their fundamental right to vote," he said.

Henneke and Story agree on one point: the result of the Texas Supreme Court case has the potential to undermine voter confidence. "If there's disruption in the upcoming runoff election or the November election it may be really caused by these groups that are trying to force radical changes to a system that works," Henneke said.

For Story, the disruption could result from suppressed turnout. "We should be encouraging as many people as possible to turn out and vote because that's part of how a democracy is supposed to work," he said.

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Austin FC couldn't find the stamina to fight off a 2-0 loss against LAFC for their inaugural match on Saturday.

The match, which saw No. 21 Austin FC go head-to-head with No. 2 LAFC in Los Angeles, was broadcast nationally on FOX and FOX Deportes.

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Ingredients:

  • 750 ml Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 16 oz strawberries

Directions: Drop sliced strawberries into glass container filled with Tito's Handmade Vodka. Let sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Once desired flavor is reached remove fruit. Enjoy!

The long-awaited day is here; Austin FC takes the field with LAFC. (Austonia)

It's matchday! Austin FC—Austin's first major league sport team—kicks off its debut season in Los Angeles today after years in the making. We know how much this means to our beloved city and are taking you along with us as we journey to LA!

Austin FC writer Claire Partain and I are excited to bring you game-day coverage straight from the City of Angels. Check back here for updates, and visit our socials: @austonianews for the latest.

5 p.m: Kickoff!

It's finally here! Claire will be updating Austonia's Twitter account live. And we'll post her game recap after the game. Best of luck Verdes!

4:40 p.m: Excitement radiates back home

Watch parties are in plenty supply back home. Austonia's Laura Figi visited Circle Brewing Co. and found a crowd of excited supporters.

4:20 p.m: Austin FC supporters are in the stadium

Although the Banc of California Stadium is hosting the match at limited capacity, we see some green in the stands ahead of kickoff. Just moments away from the Austin FC's debut!

~3:20 p.m: Austin FC's team bus enters the stadium grounds

With a warm welcome from Los Verdes, Austin FC players were welcomed into the Banc of California Stadium.

~1 p.m: Los Verdes in LA

(Rigo Rodriguez/Los Verdes)

Austin FC supporters are making their presence known in LA, including the Los Verdes group.

Los Verdes members started having match-day fun around the area this morning with brunch. We'll be joining them about an hour before the game outside the stadium to share some of their excitement. We'll post immediately to Austonia's Instagram.

11:45 a.m: We landed!

View from hotel room where we're staying; the stadium digital sign can be seen in the right corner. (Sonia Garcia/Austonia)

Switching over to pacific time, we're here and it's almost like no time went by. It's 9:45 a.m. here.

We've been in contact with Los Verdes, an Austin FC supporter group, who is also here in LA counting down to kickoff.

8:20 a.m: LA bound

Like many of you, we've been looking forward to this moment for, let's just say, a very long time. Today, we woke up bright and early, headed to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and hopped on a flight to LA.

A gloomy day in Austin with a very quiet airport, we're headed to sunny skies in California.

As we wait for the game to start at 4:30 p.m., check out Claire's preview of the game with a predicted lineup and timeline of the long journey to get here.