Texas high-court rules against wider provisions for mail-in voting sought by Democratic Party, but there’s a catch

State & Regional

The opinion said, in part, “The voter is not instructed to declare the nature of the underlying disability.”

Vote-by-mail lawsuits

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court in Austin ruled Wednesday afternoon that the risk of COVID-19 or coronavirus is not by itself a disability and therefore cannot be the basis of voting by mail.

The Texas Democratic Party, the Texas Attorney General and five Texas counties have been battling over the issue of mail-in ballots. The Democrats have pursued broader provisions for mail-in voting. The A.G. opposed them.

The court ruled in favor of the position taken by the A.G. but it was not complete victory. The high court refused to issue an order that would force counties to investigate whether or not disability claims are valid among those who wish to vote by mail.

“We agree with the State that a lack of immunity to COVID-19 is not itself a ‘physical Condition’ that renders a voter eligible to vote by mail within the meaning of [state law],” the ruling said.

But it also said, “… While the State has alleged that the Clerks are accepting ‘improper application[s],’ there is no evidence in the record that any has accepted a faulty application. The Clerks have assured us that they will fully discharge their duty to follow the law.”

Notably, the opinion said, “The voter is not instructed to declare the nature of the underlying disability. The elected officials have placed in the hands of the voter the determination of whether in-person voting will cause a likelihood of injury due to a physical condition.”

In her own concurring opinion, Justice Eva Guzman wrote, “… Whether a voter is eligible to vote by mail ultimately depends on the voter’s own assessment of his or her individual health status.”

Roughly an hour after the ruling became public, the Texas Democratic Party said in part, “Leave it to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court to put out 45 pages of opinion and give no guidance to voters about who can vote by mail during a pandemic…”

The A.G.’s office on Wednesday evening said in a written statement, “Attorney General Ken Paxton today applauded the Texas Supreme Court for ruling that election officials in Dallas, Cameron, El Paso, Harris and Travis Counties are incorrect to include fear of contracting COVID-19 as a ‘disability’ on mail-in ballot applications.”

In the statement, Paxton was quoted as saying, “In-person voting is the surest way to maintain the integrity of our elections, prevent voter fraud and guarantee that every voter is who they claim to be.”

CLICK HERE to read the opinion on the Texas Supreme Court website.

There is also a federal case pending on the issue.

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