TEXAS — Following a great deal of back-and-forth ahead of the early voting period, a U.S. federal appeals court on Monday upheld Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott’s limit on mail ballot drop-off locations.

The move by the governor limits every county in Texas, regardless of size and population, to one location.

A federal judge last Friday halted the order. That was contested by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and a stay was granted by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Leaving the Governor’s October 1 Proclamation in place still gives Texas absentee voters many ways to cast their ballots in the November 3 election,” Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote in the opinion. “These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-COVID world. The October 1 Proclamation abridges no one’s right to vote.”

Abbott said the order was issued in order to protect the integrity of the election. Critics maintain the move constitutes voter suppression.

The three judges listed in Monday’s ruling were appointed by President Donald Trump.

Numerous Texas counties originally offered multiple mail ballot drop-off locations. That includes Harris County, which has a population of more than 4.7 million people and originally had 11 locations. Dallas County initially had five locations.

President Trump has repeatedly stated that widespread mail-in voting will lead to fraud, though there is no evidence supporting that.

Abbott said the limit on drop-off sites is needed to ensure election security, while Democrats and voting rights groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, called it an effort to suppress voters.

The lawsuit challenging Abbott’s order was filed by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens; the National League of United Latin American Citizens; the League of Women Voters of Texas; and two voters.

In a concurring opinion, Judge James Ho wrote that he grudgingly agrees with Duncan, but that the federal judge and Abbott were both wrong in trying to change state election laws.

“The district court was wrong to rewrite Texas law. But the distinguished judge who did so was simply following in the Governor’s footsteps. It is surely just as offensive to the Constitution to rewrite Texas election law by executive fiat as it is to do so by judicial fiat,” Ho wrote.

“Only the district court’s rewriting of Texas law is before us today, however,” according to Ho. “It recalls the adage that sometimes it’s only the guy who throws the second punch that gets caught ... I grudgingly concur.”

In order to vote by mail in Texas you must be 65 years old or older, be sick or have a disability, be out of your county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period, or in jail but otherwise qualified to vote.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.