Texas Democrats ramp up vote-by-mail efforts

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The Texas Democratic Party launched a new fund on Monday that will be used to send 1.75 million mail-in ballot applications by November.

The party said it will start by sending more than 815,000 vote-by-mail applications to eligible voters in August, according to a morning news release.

“Texas is the biggest battleground state. This historic investment in our Vote-by-Mail program is the next phase of our plan to win the state of Texas,” said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia in a prepared statement. “We will continue to register new voters, expand the electorate, fight back against all Republican attempts to suppress the vote, and harness the energy and enthusiasm that we’ve seen across the state.” 

In Texas, only voters 65 or older, those with a disability, those outside the country, or those in jail can vote by mail. In recent months Texas Democrats and civil rights groups have clashed with Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a series of legal battles in an attempt to expand those restrictions.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Paxton has issued threats to anyone encouraging voters to claim a disability while applying for a mail ballot. Texas is one of four states that does not accept the fear of contracting COVID-19 as a reason for absentee voting, according to The Washington Post.  

Nevertheless, Texas law and a recent Texas Supreme Court ruling are clear: voters — not Paxton — get to decide what is and isn’t a disability when applying for a mail ballot. Ultimately, a voter with health complications who fears contracting COVID-19 and someone with a physical disability that makes it difficult to vote on election day are checking the same box in their mail-ballot applications. Under Texas law, the state or county election officials cannot demand proof of disability or attempt to parse legitimate or illegitimate disability claims in mail ballot applications. 

“A voter can take into consideration aspects of his health and his health history that are physical conditions in deciding whether, under the circumstances, to apply to vote by mail because of disability,” the Texas Supreme Court ruled in May. 

As Texas Democrats seek to expand vote-by-mail in November, county election administrators and the Texas Secretary of State will have to work harder to ensure each ballot is counted.

The Texas Tribune reported last month that “some Texans who sought to vote by mail — and submitted their applications on time — indicated they never received their ballots.”

“Some opted instead to vote in person. Others went uncounted,” the report continued. “It’s unknown how many were affected.” 

Photo: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Digital First Media/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin via Getty Images

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