The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Friday that state law does not qualify all people with pre-existing health conditions for absentee voting, The Associated Press reported.
The ruling reversed a decision earlier this month by Hinds County Chancery Judge Denise Owens, with the majority of the state’s Supreme Court justices arguing that Owens interpreted earlier changes to state law too broadly.
“Having a preexisting condition that puts a voter at a higher risk does not automatically create a temporary disability for absentee-voting purposes,” the justices wrote in the majority opinion.
This decision diverges from a ruling from a federal judge in neighboring Louisiana on Wednesday, who said that Louisiana must allow mail-in voting for people with conditions that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed as making people more vulnerable to COVID-19, their caretakers and three other groups.
Under current state law, Mississippi only allows absentee voting for people aged 65 or older, those who are permanently disabled, residents who will be out of the country on Election Day and those who are required to work Nov. 3.
According to the AP, Mississippi state legislators had added new temporary provisions to the law for 2020 that allow absentee voting by someone with a temporary or permanent disability that may include “a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19” or by a person who is “caring for a dependent that is under a physician-imposed quarantine due to COVID-19.”
People with health conditions, including lupus and asthma, filed a lawsuit on Aug. 11 in Hinds County, with their attorneys arguing that the law should also include any voter who has preexisting conditions.
Friday’s ruling comes amid larger concerns on the safety of in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. States that began early voting Friday, including Virginia and Minnesota, are allowing voters the option to mail their ballots prior to Election Day.