All Texans Need The Option To Vote By Mail

All Texans Need The Option To Vote By Mail

COVID-19 has already impacted the primary elections in several states this year, and as Texas plans to conduct Primary run offs in July and the General Election in November it is important that we implminte procedures that will allowelections to happen safely, and securly. The best way to do that is to allow any Texan that wants to vote by mail to do so.

I know many of us, myslef included take pride in going in person, waiting in line, and performing our civic duty by voting—but this year it is wiser that we maximize the number of people who can vote by mail.
So if you are any of the following:

  • 65 years or older;
  • disabled;
  • out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or
  • confined in jail, but otherwise eligible;

during the upcoming election I implore you to consider registering to vote by mail by clicking here.

That list of qualifications is very limiting; however, the Texas Democratic party is suing in order to allow anyone fearful of contacting or spreading COVID-19 while voting able to do so.

Below is an excert from the The Legislative Study Group’s (LSG) (a.k.a. the Texas House Progressive Caucus, that I chair) report on the need for Mail-in voting. You can click here to read the full report.

The Texas Cases

The Texas Democratic Party and two individual plaintiffs under the age of 65 (later joined by the League of Women Voters Texas and MOVE Texas) have filed cases in both state and federal court. Under Texas law, you can apply to vote by mail if you are any of the following:

  • are 65 years or older;
  • are disabled;
  • will be out of the county on Election Day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; OR
  • confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.

The plaintiffs did not seek to change the law or the entire system of voting in Texas. They simply argued that a person should qualify for a mail ballot under the disability qualification, citing Sec. 82.002 of the Texas Election Code, which states: “A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.”(emphasis added). As we have documented in this report, voters have serious concerns about the possibility of injuring their health if they must stand in long lines to vote in person, concerns that were echoed in court by an epidemiologist and doctor who said voting in person would pose a risk of contracting the coronavirus.

Last Friday, State District Judge Tim Sulak agreed with the plaintiffs and issued an order to allow voters to request a mail-in ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic by citing the disability qualification allowed in the Texas election code. The state immediately appealed, but Attorney General Ken Paxton took an unusually defiant step of sending out a threatening “informal letter of advice” stating that an individual’s fear of contracting the virus was not enough to meet the definition of disability to qualify for a mail ballot and that those who advise voters to apply for a mail ballot based on that fear could be criminally prosecuted.

The federal case will be heard in Judge Fred Biery’s court in San Antonio, and it is based on the 26th amendment, which prevents the federal government, as well as all state and local governments, from using age as a justification for denying the right to vote to any citizen of the United States who is at least 18 years of age, citing the dangers presented to those under 65 who cannot vote by mail during this pandemic.

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