Texas Supreme Court Rules County Can’t Mail Ballot Applications to All Voters

A voter passes by a voting booth after voting, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Harris County, the most populous county in the state, cannot mail ballot applications to all of its 2.4 million registered voters.

The entirely Republican Supreme Court said the elections administrator of Harris County could not continue a plan to mail ballot applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county, which includes Houston, the Texas Tribune reported.

The justices ruled against attempts by County Clerk Chris Hollins to expand mail-in voting in the state during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that such a move would overstep his bounds.

“We conclude that the Election Code does not authorize the mailing proposed by the Harris County Clerk,” the court wrote in an opinion obtained by the Tribune.

The state Supreme Court sent the case to a lower court in the county to place an injunction on Hollins that would prevent him from sending out the applications.

The lower courts, which had Democrat judges, sided with Hollins before the case went back to the state Supreme Court.

Harris County had already mailed out ballots to voters 65 years of age and older, and to anyone who requested one. Texas law restricts absentee voting to those 65 years of age or older, people who are out of the country, those with a disability, and those who are incarcerated.

If the court approved Hollins’s plans, 1.7 million more applications would have been sent out.

The legal battle started when Republican state attorney general Ken Paxton sued Hollins to keep him from mailing the applications, arguing that the move was above his power and would confuse voters who are ineligible to vote absentee in Texas.

Unlike Texas, some state supreme courts are giving more leeway to mail-in voting.

On Wednesday, a New Jersey federal judge rejected the Trump campaign’s challenge to halt the state’s mail-in voting rules, including one rule that would allow ballots to be accepted up to two days after Election Day even if they are not postmarked.

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