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Harris County Mail-In Ballot Push Halted by Renewed Texas Supreme Court Order
Following a State District Court ruling, the Texas Supreme Court blocked Harris County Clerk Hollins’ plan to send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to every voter.
By Holly Hansen
September 16, 2020
The Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) issued a renewed stay Tuesday blocking the Harris County Clerk from sending out mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters.
A previous court stay was set to expire 5 days following a district court ruling in a pending lawsuit. Last Friday, Judge R. K. Sandill ruled in favor of Harris County’s interim Clerk Chris Hollins in a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which would have allowed the previous stay to expire Wednesday night.
Earlier this year the SCOTX had ruled against a plan to send out unsolicited ballots to all voters, since under Texas election laws only individuals who are over 65 years of age or ill or incapacitated qualify to vote without visiting a polling site and providing identification. Paxton also warned local officials that third parties encouraging voters to illegally claim disability could be subject to prosecution.
Hollins, appointed interim clerk after the sudden resignation of Diane Trautman last May, had intended instead to send mail-in ballot applications to each of Harris County’s 2.4 million registered voters as part of his S.A.F.E. Plan for elections. He claimed that by including a flyer explaining eligibility the clerk and the county could avoid liability in case the mail ballot applications were improper.
Paxton filed a lawsuit arguing that the Harris County scheme would confuse voters, overwhelm ballot processing procedures, and could lead to the disenfranchisement of voters who may not be notified of ineligibility before they could then vote in person.