Tag Archives: mail

Texas election roundup: Postmaster General pauses disruption

The U.S. Postal Service warned Texas officials in July that it may be unable to deliver some mail-in ballots on time in order to meet the deadlines for them to be counted in the November 2020 presidential election. If nothing changes, the consequences for the roughly 7% of Texans who typically vote by mail in a presidential contest could be having their votes go uncounted.

This admission came after U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a megadonor President Donald Trump appointed to run the post office in May, began making changes that have resulted in mail delays around the country. At the same time, President Trump announced he would oppose funding for the USPS in order to prevent the mail service from being able to process mail-in ballots for the presidential election.

Under pressure from 20 states that have filed lawsuits against the USPS over the delays, DeJoy announced this week he would pause those changes for the rest of the year. DeJoy is scheduled to testify Friday before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

This week began convention season on the campaign trail, with Democrats holding a virtual convention to formally nominate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the 2020 Democratic ticket. The return to schools was high on the list of topics discussed at the Democratic National Convention, with Biden’s wife Dr. Jill Biden delivering a speech from inside a classroom at the high school were she once taught. The Republican National Convention will begin next week in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Republicans will formally nominate Donald Trump for reelection.

In Texas, Democratic candidates won a legal battle to keep Green Party candidates off the statewide November ballot. The lawsuit accused the candidates of being ineligible because they failed to pay the required filing fees. The Green Party has argued those filing fees are unconstitutional. Third-party candidates in Texas rarely exceed single digits in statewide elections, but they could win enough votes to shift the outcome of a close race between a Democrat and Republican.

A new Texas poll conducted by YouGov and Rice University in August shows Trump leading Biden by 5% among likely voters. The number is higher than most recent Texas polls that have shown a close race within the margin of error. The same poll shows U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) leading Democratic challenger MJ Hegar by 6%.

Texas election roundup: Another court decision on mail-in voting

For weeks there has been a back-and-forth battle being waged over Texas voting laws, but that fight may be drawing closer to an end. Today, June 4, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals became the latest in a litany of federal and state courts to weigh in on a debate at the intersection of elections and the coronavirus pandemic: whether to expand eligibility for mail-in voting.

As previously reported here on Teach the Vote, the Texas Supreme Court and a federal district court were the last to weigh in on this issue prior to today’s ruling. A federal district judge previously issued an order to allow all registered voters in Texas to apply for mail-in ballots, based on finding our state’s current restrictions to be unconstitutional. The federal appellate court ruling issued today blocks that district court’s order from taking effect.

While the Fifth Circuit’s ruling today is merely a stay of the lower court’s order, the language used by two members of the three-judge panel demonstrates the appellate court’s dubious view on the merits of using litigation to expand mail-in voting eligibility. We will have to wait to hear a more final word from the appeals court, but it does not appear likely that more people will be permitted to avoid visiting the polls in person while still exercising their right to vote.

Regardless of the final outcome at the Fifth Circuit, the losing side is likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may or may not choose to hear the case. Most cases appealed to the highest court in the nation do not get heard, which means a ruling by the circuit court often becomes the last word on federal judicial matters. Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates.

Texas election roundup: The mail voting seesaw

The back and forth over calls to expand mail-in voting peaked this week with a flurry of court orders, further confusing what has become a dramatic, partisan fight. One side of the debate believes voters should not be forced to risk their health and the health of their families in order to exercise their fundamental right to vote, while the other side argues there is too much risk of voter fraud to allow the expansion of mail-in balloting.

To bring you back up to speed, Texas faces several lawsuits by individual voters and interested organizations seeking to expand voting by mail. Because Texas law restricts mail-in voting to individuals who meet a narrow set of eligibility criteria, one of which is having a disability, many of the plaintiffs’ arguments call for treating voters’ health-related fears of exposure to the coronavirus as a disability. Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are leading the fight against opening up voting by mail to those voters who fear contracting COVID-19 but may not otherwise qualify for a mail-in ballot. Many states, with Republican and Democratic governors alike, have already decided to expand voting by mail in light of the pandemic-related concerns.

The seesaw through the courts began with a state district court ordering, first, that all Texans who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 should be allowed to vote by mail. Last week, a state appellate court upheld that order. Appealing the ruling on behalf of the state, Abbott and Paxton echoed President Donald Trump’s claim that expanding voting by mail would increase voter fraud, which many election experts say is “extremely rare” and preventable. The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court announced Friday the expansion of mail-in voting would be put on hold temporarily while it considers the case.

Health care professionals and institutions from around the state have since filed a brief to the Texas Supreme Court arguing that COVID-19 would almost certainly be spread at polling locations, even with protocols such as sanitizing voting machines and requiring PPE for in-person voting. According to the brief, “When the risk for injury to registered voters is so severe—potentially deadly—there is little to no benefit for in-person voting when a viable mail-in alternative is already available by statute.”

The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides on Wednesday, May 20, and Paxton has asked the state’s highest court to quickly issue a ruling.

Meanwhile, the dispute over mail-in ballots is simultaneously playing out in the federal courts, too. On Tuesday, May 19, a federal judge ruled on a similar lawsuit filed in U.S. district court, finding that the state’s current restrictions on voting by mail violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and ruling that all registered voters in Texas could apply to vote by mail. Judge Fred Biery wrote in his decision, “The Court finds the Grim Reaper’s scepter of pandemic disease and death is far more serious than an unsupported fear of voter fraud in this sui generis experience.”

Paxton immediately appealed the federal judge’s ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upon Paxton’s request agreed on Wednesday, May 20, to temporarily stay Judge Biery’s ruling while it decides whether to permanently overturn the decision.

Stay tuned to Teach the Vote for updates on the frequently changing status of this debate.