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AUSTIN, Texas -- A federal appeals court has suspended a judge's order requiring people in Texas to wear masks in polling stations.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam's order late Wednesday.

Pulliam ruled this week that not requiring face coverings in Texas polling places created a discriminatory burden on Black and Hispanic voters, who face higher risks of death and severe illness from the coronavirus.

Texas elections administrators had expected Pulliam's ruling to be put on hold and did not begin enforcing his order requiring face coverings. Texas has had a statewide mask mandate since July, but Republican Gov. Greg Abbott carved out an exception for polling places.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

More than 8 million votes have been cast early in Texas, which is nearly the total number that were cast in the nation's second-largest state during the 2016 election. Early voting in Texas ends today.

The lawsuit seeking the mask requirement in polling stations was filed by the Texas NAACP and the Hispanic rights group Mi Familia Vota.

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