Texas Supreme Court rules against Harris County mail ballot expansion

by | Oct 7, 2020 | Policy, Voting

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday against an effort by Harris County to send more than 2 million mail ballot applications to voters.

The move would have gotten more mail ballots in the hands of eligible voters in the state’s most populated county amid the outbreak, but the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court blocked it, arguing it threatened the uniform operation of election laws across the state.

“We hold that the Election Code does not authorize an early-voting clerk to send an application to vote by mail to a voter who has not requested one and that a clerk’s doing so results in irreparable injury to the State,” read the opinion of the court.

The Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked the effort last month and issued its final ruling Wednesday.

“It is disappointing that the Court has sided with political forces seeking to limit voter access this November,” said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins in a statement. “Placing limitations on non-partisan outreach that educates citizens about their Constitutional right to vote should not be acceptable in a democracy.”

The court’s opinion comes a week after Gov. Greg Abbott limited the number of mail-in ballot collection sites in all Texas counties, potentially suppressing the vote in major counties where multiple drop-off locations were planned.

Also on Wednesday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit by state GOP Chairman Allen West and other rightwing Texas Republicans who sued to attempt to shorten the early voting period that had been extended by Abbott by only six days.

Ironically, among the court’s reasoning was that the election was already underway and to “disrupt the long-planned election procedures” would “threaten voter confusion” — arguments that for whatever reason, don’t apply to the Harris County mail ballot expansion effort that had been planned since April.

The recent rapid-fire court wins for Republicans preventing mail ballot expansion and the governor’s anti-democratic order is being criticized by Democrats as a strategy to suppress the vote in the nation’s largest swing state. Aggregate polling shows Trump leading Biden by an average of only three percentage points in Texas — a state the president won by nine percentage points in 2016.

In a statement reacting to the Texas Supreme Court ruling against Harris County, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said it was another example of Republicans micromanaging the lives of local Texans.

“Republicans will bend the ‘law’ any which way to serve their purpose: maintain power for Republicans no longer supported by a majority of the state,” he said.

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

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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