Texas

Articles about voting issues in Texas.

Texas: President Trump’s attempt to rock the vote rattles Texas politics | Ross Ramsey/The Texas Tribune

President Donald Trump is in a tight spot, behind in national polls and barely ahead in Texas, where no Democrat has won a presidential race since 1976. When he said the other day that “nobody likes me,” nobody disagreed with him. His situation sets the environment for Republicans and Democrats up and down the November ballot in Texas. If the Republican president does well, that’s probably to the benefit of other Republicans on the ballot, even if the state doesn’t have straight-ticket voting anymore. If he does poorly, it could spell a good day for the Democrats. And in an election where a half dozen seats in Congress and the Republican majority in the Texas House are at stake, the top candidate’s performance is critical. On Thursday morning, the president retreated to his safe space — Twitter — where he ruminated on the impending election that could make him the first one-term president in almost three decades. “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???,” Trump tweeted. That sent a shudder through the political world. Democrats predictably started hacking away — or continued hacking away — at Trump. But Republicans, who’ve been very cautious about creating any distance between themselves and a president with strong support from their party’s voters, made room for themselves this time. Read More

Texas: Governor extends early voting for November election by six days | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday extended the early voting period for the November election by six days, citing continued challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Early voting for the Nov. 3 election will now begin Oct. 13 instead of Oct. 19. The end date remains Oct. 30. The extension of the early voting period is not a surprise. During a TV interview in late May, Abbott said he would add more time to the early voting period for the November election — as he did for the primary runoff election earlier this month — but did not elaborate. Last week, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins asked Abbott to provide more details so that election officials could have enough time to prepare. In a letter to the governor, Hollins requested that Abbott move the start date to Oct. 13 at the latest. For the runoffs, Abbott doubled the early voting period, shifting the start date from July 6 to June 29. The end date was July 10. Read More

Texas: Texans with disabilities sue to challenge mail-in ballot process | Katie Hall/Austin American-Statesman

Disability rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Texas secretary of state, contending that the vote-by-mail process is inaccessible to people with impairments to vision and writing. People with these disabilities must either seek help to vote by mail or “risk their health during this pandemic by traveling to a polling place,” the suit argues. The solution would be to offer online voting options, which are already available to people in the military and people overseas, they said. Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs disagrees, saying it’s unfeasible to implement online voting this close to the general election, according to an attorney who wrote a letter on her behalf earlier this month. The National Federation of the Blind of Texas and the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities, along with three Texas men with disabilities — an Austin man who is blind, a Beaumont man who also is blind, and an Arlington man with cerebral palsy — are suing Hughs. All three men would prefer to vote online for the November election, the suit says. Read More

Texas: Disabilities advocates: Texas mail ballot system disenfranchises people with disabilities | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A group of advocates for Texans with disabilities sued the state of Texas on Friday claiming its mail ballot system kept people with disabilities from participating in mail voting. The lawsuit filed in a federal court in Austin alleges that the current system, which is done on paper ballots, is inaccessible to blind voters and other voters with disabilities who can’t compete a paper ballot because of their disability. The plaintiffs asked the federal court to force the state to implement a vote-by-mail system that is remotely accessible for people with disabilities before the November elections. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities and three individual plaintiffs. They are represented by Brown Goldstein & Levy and Disability Rights Texas. “There is plenty of time to allow Texas to make mail-in ballots accessible in time for the upcoming elections on Nov. 3,” Lia Davis, senior attorney at Disability Rights Texas, said in a statement. “People who are blind have a right to use the mail-in ballot option, and they should not be unnecessarily exposed to the COVID-19 virus at the polls. We believe there is an easy remedy to this problem and the Secretary of State’s obstinance is discriminatory.” Read More

Texas: In-person voting rules during pandemic challenged in lawsuit | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Opening a new front in the legal wars over voting during the coronavirus pandemic, two civil rights organizations and two Texas voters argue that the state’s rules for in-person voting won’t work this year and are asking a federal judge to require substantial changes. In a wide-ranging federal lawsuit filed Thursday in San Antonio, Mi Familia Vota, the Texas NAACP and the voters claim the state’s current polling place procedures — including rules for early voting, the likelihood of long lines and Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to not require voters to wear masks — place an unconstitutional burden on voters while the virus remains in circulation. That burden will be particularly high for Black and Latino voters whose communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus, the lawsuit argues. “The Texas 2020 elections will put voters at risk of transmitting or being infected with the coronavirus. But the risk will not be shared equally,” the lawsuit reads. “Some voters will be able to vote easily by mail. Others will not. Some will have easy access to early voting locations. Others will not. “And some will be able to vote quickly on Election Day by a hand-marked paper ballot handled by a single poll worker, or on a properly disinfected machine. Others will have to wait for hours at understaffed locations, without the option to vote on a hand-marked paper ballot, forced to vote on a machine used by dozens or hundreds of voters, which should, but might not, be properly disinfected after each use, much less protected from aerosolized particles from the last voter’s breathing in the same space.” Read More

Texas: Judge denies Harris County request to allow email voting for those infected with COVID-19 | Zach Despart/Houston Chronicle

A state district judge on Friday denied a request by Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins to allow thousands of voters who recently tested positive for coronavirus, and now are quarantined, to vote online in the primary runoff election. The novel voting method never has been used in Harris County, but was permitted for the small-scale North Texas Ebola outbreak in 2014. Judge Larry Weiman, however, said he shared concerns raised by the Harris County Republican Party that online voting was not secure. Weiman, a Democrat, also said at the emergency telephone hearing that the county clerk had not produced an example of a voter being disenfranchised by exposure to coronavirus. “The plaintiff hasn’t shown any injured party,” Weiman said. Hollins sought to allow the estimated 10,000 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 after the July 2 deadline to apply for a mail ballot. Forcing infected residents to vote in person would put “thousands of other voters at risk,” County Attorney Vince Ryan wrote in the clerk’s court filing. Read More

Texas: Two counties cut voting locations as workers quit over coronavirus | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A lack of workers willing to run polling sites as Texas continues to report record coronavirus infections is forcing election officials in two major counties to scale back plans for the July 14 primary runoff elections. Citing a drop-off spurred by fear of the virus, Bexar County, the state’s fourth largest, is expected to close at least eight of its planned 226 voting locations for next Tuesday, according to County Judge Nelson Wolff. In Tarrant County, the third largest, election officials learned Thursday that the local Republican and Democratic parties had agreed to shutter two of 173 sites planned for election day voting after the parties were unable to find election judges to run the polling places. Although poll workers are generally being provided with protective gear, Gov. Greg Abbott‘s decision to not require voters to wear masks when they show up at polling locations is driving some poll workers away, Wolff said. “There is protection for them in terms of what they try to do, but anybody can walk in without a mask,” Wolff said Wednesday evening during his daily coronavirus-related briefing. “The governor did not cover elections, and so they don’t want to work. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them.” Read More

Texas: U.S. Supreme Court won’t fast-track Texas Democrats’ bid to expand mail-in voting during pandemic | Emma Platoff/The Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t fast-track a bid by Texas Democrats to decide whether all Texas voters can vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving in place the state’s current regulations for the July 14 primary runoff election. But the case, which now returns to a lower court, could be back before the Supreme Court before the higher-stakes, larger-turnout general election in November. Texas law allows voters to mail in their ballots only if they are 65 or older, confined in jail, will be out of the county during the election period, or cite a disability or illness. But Texas Democrats have argued that voters who are susceptible to contracting the new coronavirus should be able to vote by mail as the pandemic continues to ravage the state. Thursday’s one-line, unsigned order denying the Democrats’ effort to get a quick ruling comes a week after another minor loss for them at the high court. On June 26, the Supreme Court declined to reinstate a federal judge’s order that would immediately expand voting by mail to all Texas voters during the coronavirus pandemic. Read More

Texas: Masks, distance and plastic dividers: Officials will use runoffs as ‘tests’ for November elections | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

Officials across Texas will start their first major test in holding elections during the COVID-19 pandemic as polls open Monday for early voting in the state’s July 14 primary runoffs. Democrats across the state will decide their nominee for the U.S. Senate, and there are several important GOP runoff races for Congress and the statehouse. Though Secretary of State Ruth R. Hughs, the state’s top elections official, has issued minimum health protocols, the elections will be a dry run for local administrators preparing for the presidential contest, when voter turnout is expected to be much higher and possibly record-breaking. “We’re saying this is the test election for November,” said Jacquelyn F. Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator. “This is the preview, and that is really nice because we’ll find out if some things work and some things didn’t work.” Among the state’s safety protocols are requirements to keep voters and poll workers 6 feet apart, make hand sanitizer available to voters and regularly clean surfaces that are frequently touched. But local election administrators say they plan to go beyond the state’s minimum standards. Read More

Texas: As states expand vote by mail amid COVID, Texas leaders continue their fight against it | Mark Dent/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The local election news of the last few weeks reminds Lisa Morris of her mom. Gloria Meeks, who lived in the Rolling Hills neighborhood of south Fort Worth, was an entrepreneur with a seemingly endless supply of energy. She operated her own catering company yet found time to cook fiesta dip and Texas King Ranch casserole for her kids and grandkids. She regularly joined a pilot friend on leisurely plane rides in the skies of North Texas and took two cruises almost every year. On top of all that, she was devoted to ensuring the Black community exercised its right to vote. Meeks organized a phone bank for Democratic voters and assisted the elderly with their mail-in ballots during election seasons. “She was just a great lady,” says Democratic Fort Worth Congressman Marc Veasey. “She worked really hard. She liked getting out the vote.” Then, in August 2006, investigators with the Texas Attorney General’s Office arrived at Meeks’ house. She was drying off from a bath when two male inspectors looked in through her bathroom window, according to a signed declaration. She screamed, and they waited outside to interview her until she got dressed. Meeks was never charged. She was one of many Fort Worth women to experience scrutiny regarding mail-in ballots, and the encounter convinced her the Attorney General’s Office was after her for no reason, leading to difficulty sleeping. Later that year, Meeks had a stroke. Morris says her mother never fully recovered until her death in 2012 at age 75. The situation left Morris with a negative opinion of Greg Abbott, who was Attorney General at the time. “In all honesty, I believe he’s the reason my mother had a stroke,” she said. Read More

Texas: Supreme Court Turns Down Request to Allow All Texans to Vote by Mail | Adam Liptak/The New York Times

The Supreme Court said on Friday that it would not require Texas to let all eligible voters vote by mail. The Texas Democratic Party and several voters had urged the court to reinstate a federal trial judge’s injunction requiring state officials to allow all voters, and not just those who are 65 or older, to submit their ballots by mail. They relied on the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 and said the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age.” The court’s brief order gave no reasons, which is typical when the justices rule on emergency applications, and there were no noted dissents. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a statement saying that the question in the case raised “weighty but seemingly novel questions regarding the 26th Amendment.” But she said the court was right not to address those questions in the context of an emergency application. “I hope,” she wrote, “that the court of appeals will consider the merits of the legal issues in this case well in advance of the November election.” Voting by mail has been the focus of debate and litigation in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Five states will conduct the general election in November entirely by mail, and many others will allow all eligible voters to vote by mail.

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Texas: Straight-ticket voting lawsuit tossed by federal court | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

A federal judge on Wednesday threw out Democrats’ effort to reinstate the straight-ticket voting option in Texas. Siding with the state, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo found that Democrats lacked standing to challenge Texas Republicans’ decision to kill straight-ticket voting ahead of the November general election. The judge dismissed the federal lawsuit after ruling that Democrats’ claims of the electoral fallout that could come from eliminating straight-ticket voting were too speculative. The Texas Democratic Party — joined by the chair of the Webb County Democratic Party and the Democratic campaign arms of the U.S. Senate and House — filed the lawsuit in March on the heels of Super Tuesday voting that left some Texans waiting for hours to cast their ballots. They claimed the elimination of straight-ticket voting is unconstitutional and intentionally discriminatory because the longer lines and waiting times it is expected to cause would be disproportionately felt at polling places that serve Hispanic and Black voters. Read More

Texas: Coronavirus postponed a Texas election. Now there’s even greater risk for some voters. | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

When the coronavirus threat was newer and seemed more immediate, Texas postponed its May elections to pick winners in several party primary runoffs, fearing the health risks of exposing voters and poll workers. With those statewide elections about to take place, the health risks voters face are now arguably greater than when the runoffs were initially called off. The virus appears to be in much wider circulation than the original May 26 runoff date, with the state coming off a full week of record highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations and several consecutive days of record highs for daily reported infections. But voters won’t be required to wear masks at polling places. Gov. Greg Abbott, who earlier expressed concerns about exposing Texans “to the risk of death” at crowded polling sites, has forbidden local governments from requiring people to wear them in public. And Texas Republicans, led by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, have successfully fought off legal efforts by Democrats and some voters to let more people vote by mail if they are fearful of being exposed to the virus at polling places. Read More

Texas: Democrats ask U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on voting by mail | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

After a series of losses in state and federal courts, Texas Democrats are looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to expand voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. The Texas Democratic Party asked the high court Tuesday to immediately lift the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ block on a sweeping ruling that would allow all Texas voters who are seeking to avoid becoming infected at in-person polling places to instead vote by mail. Early voting for the July 14 primary runoff election begins June 29. The fight to expand who can qualify for a ballot they can fill at home and mail in has been on a trajectory toward the Supreme Court since Texas Democrats, civil rights groups and individual voters first challenged the state’s rules months ago when the new coronavirus reached Texas. Under existing law, mail-in ballots are available only if voters are 65 or older, cite a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period or are confined in jail.n “Our constitution prevents our government from discriminating against voters due to age. Especially during this pandemic, why should we be penalized for being under age 65?” said Brenda Li Garcia, a registered nurse in San Antonio and plaintiff in the case, during a virtual press conference announcing the appeal to the Supreme Court. “To protect a certain group and to give only certain ages the right to vote by mail is arbitrary, discriminatory and unconstitutional.” Read More

Texas: Dismissal sought in Texas lawsuit over mail-in voting during coronavirus | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

The fight over expanding voting by mail in Texas during the coronavirus pandemic appears to be coming to an end in state courts, but a lawsuit continues at the federal level. After a Texas Supreme Court ruling that closed the door to expanded mail-in voting, the individual voters, state Democrats and civic organizations that sued to expand voting by mail based on a lack of immunity to the new coronavirus asked a state appeals court Tuesday evening to dismiss their case. The case was part of a flurry of litigation in state and federal courts challenging the state’s rules for who qualifies for a ballot they can fill out at home and mail in, that for now has left the status quo in place: Mail-in ballots are available only if voters are 65 or older, cite a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail. The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the likelihood of “injuring the voter’s health.” Read More

Texas: Voters will decide for themselves if they need mail-in ballots for July runoffs | Taylor Goldenstein/Houston Chronicle

As Democrats and civil rights groups sue to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic, a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court has left it up to voters to decide for themselves whether they qualify for vote-by-mail. In its decision in late May, the highest civil court in the state ruled that lack of immunity to COVID-19 alone does not constitute a disability that would allow those under 65 years old to vote by mail rather than at the polls, under the Texas election codes. But it added — which legal experts say is crucial — that a voter can take the possibility of being infected into consideration along with his or her “health” and “health history” to determine whether he or she needs to vote by mail under the ‘disability’ provisions in the law. “I think really the story here is that it’s going to be up to individual voters to decide whether they fit this definition or not,” said Joseph Fishkin, a University of Texas professor who studies election law and has closely followed the cases. So while the court battle continues with Democrats on one side, and on the other side Republican state leaders who argue that an expansion of mail-in voting would encourage more voter fraud, it will be up to elections officials across the state to set the tone for mail-in voting. Read More

Texas: Federal appeals court blocks expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19 | James Barragán/Dallas Morning News

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked the expansion of mail voting in Texas during COVID-19. A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a temporary injunction by District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio that allowed people who lacked immunity to COVID-19 — essentially all Texans — the ability to vote by mail. The panel unanimously blocked that injunction until a full appeal is heard. The appeals court had previously put the lower court’s injunction on temporary pause. But Thursday’s order brought the expansion of mail voting in the state during COVID-19 to a full stop. The injunction is now blocked until further order of the appeals court. Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the appeals court’s ruling in a statement. “Allowing universal mail-in ballots, which are particularly vulnerable to fraud, would only lead to greater election fraud and disenfranchise lawful voters,” he said. “The unanimous Fifth Circuit ruling puts a stop to this blatant violation of Texas law.” Read More

Texas: Wichita County buys additional voting equipment in case of increased mail-in ballots | Claire Kowalick/Wichita Falls Times Record News

Wichita County is planning to have additional equipment in place in case there are any changes to elections due to the COVID-19 situation. The Commissioners Court approved Monday the purchase of a Hart Intercivic Ballot Now Printer and a Kodak i660 Central Scanner with software and monitor for $62,675. The expenditure will come of the of the general contingency fund, but the purchase could be fully or partially reimbursed through the Helping America Vote Act (HAVA). HAVA was passed by the United States Congress in 2002 to improve the voting process and voter access after issues came up in the 2000 election. The program aims to update and upgrade voting equipment, have statewide voter registration databases, provide voter identification and administrative complaint procedures, and provide provisional voting. While elections offices have been working for years to make these changes, the upcoming election has the additional challenge of the coronavirus. There has been discussion at the national and state levels to expand mail-in voting to lessen the chance of exposure to COVID-19, especially for the elderly or other vulnerable populations. Read More

Texas: Texas Says Coronavirus Is Not A Good Enough Reason To Vote By Mail | Ashley Lopez/NPR

In an effort to keep voters safe, states of all political complexions are finding ways to expand access to mail-in ballots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Then there’s Texas. The state has some of the most restrictive laws limiting vote by mail in the country. Under Texas law, the program is open only to people who are 65 or older, people who will be out of the county during the election, people who are in jail and not convicted, and people who are disabled. And after a series of often-contradictory court orders over the past month, it’s still unclear whether more Texans will be able to use mail-in ballots during upcoming elections in July and November. There are currently multiple legal challenges to those policies working through various state and federal courts. Lower court judges have ordered the state to allow voters greater access to mail-in ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher courts have routinely overturned those orders – often a day or two later. The most recent legal decision, made by the Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday, said lack of immunity to the virus was not sufficient grounds for requesting a mail-in ballot. Read More

Texas: Three top Texas GOP officials who oppose expanding mail-in voting have each used it | Alexa Ura/The Texas Tribune

Three of Texas’ top Republican leaders are vigorously fighting efforts to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, arguing it will lead to increased voter fraud, yet all three have themselves cast absentee ballots at least once in past elections. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — then a state senator — voted by mail in 2007 for a May Houston municipal election and an ensuing runoff, though Harris County records show his first mail-in ballot was rejected because of a signature verification issue. Patrick is a regular voter in both local and state elections and favors casting his ballot during the early voting period. He’s been voting in Montgomery County since 2017. Although he’s a regular in-person voter in Collin County, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton used the voting-by-mail option to cast a ballot in a 2011 municipal election, according to county records. In recent elections, he’s opted for voting early. Travis County election records show Gov. Greg Abbott cast a mail-in ballot in a 1997 special election when he was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. Abbott consistently votes in local and state elections. Read More