The Texas Democratic Party (TDP) is fighting for all Texans’ right to vote and filed two lawsuits in April to get a judgment that all eligible voters in Texas who believe their health is in danger under the threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus) are eligible to cast their ballot by mail if they so choose.
Here is the timeline of recent actions
- On April 15, 2020, Judge Tim Sulak heard the case in Travis County District Court (i.e., state court). Judge Sulak issued a temporary injunction on April 17, 2020, expanding who can qualify for an absentee ballot for the upcoming elections. Voters in Travis County can claim COVID-19 health concerns as a disability and may therefore send in an application to vote by mail.
- May 14, 2020, Texas state appeals court upheld the temporary order from Judge Sulak that could greatly expand the number of voters who qualify for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, rebuffing Attorney General Ken Paxton’s effort to have the ruling put on hold while he appeals it.
- May 15, 2020, The Texas Supreme Court temporarily put a hold on expansion of voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic. Siding with Texas AG Ken Paxton, the Supreme Court blocked the May 14th state appeals court decision that allowed voters who lack immunity to the virus to qualify for absentee ballots by citing a disability. The state’s Supreme Court has not weighed the merits of the case.
- May 19, 2020. A Federal judge says all Texas voters can apply to vote by mail during pandemic. District Judge Fred Biery granted a preliminary injunction that allows all registered voters to apply to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic after finding the state’s existing election rules violate the Equal Protection Clause. As news of the ruling broke, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated he expected the ongoing cases to wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
- May 20, 2020. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an administrative stay in the federal vote-by-mail lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party. This temporarily puts the expansion of vote-by-mail on hold, again, while the case proceeds. Although the court sided with AG Paxton’s interpretation of what constitutes a disability, The Court indicated that it is up to voters to assess their own health and determine if they meet the state’s definition.
- May 24, 2020, The Texas Supreme Court blocked a push to expand Vote-by-Mail to registered voters in the state, saying the lack of immunity to the coronavirus does not count as a disability for which a voter can apply for a mail-in ballot.
- June 4, 2020, The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously extended its order blocking a lower court’s ruling that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The TDP fired back at the Fifth Circuit Court saying the decision splits up the rights handed down by the Constitution along age lines.
- June 27, 2020, The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case that would have allowed all Texas voters to qualify to vote by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The justices, without comment, turned down a request from the Texas Democratic Party to reinstate a district judge’s order that would affect the upcoming primary election in July and the general election in November” and for reasons of disability, would have given all Texans the opportunity to vote-by-mail during the pandemic. Texas is the outlier in this respect as 14 other States have modified their policies to allow voting-by-mail as it’s the right thing to do during this pandemic to protect the health and safety of their voters. This case is now currently back before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal has been fully briefed, and there will be oral argument before the Fifth Circuit on August 31.
What DOES THIS MEAN?
While this latest news is disappointing; there is still the case involving the 26th Amendment. The good news is that the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) got in front of this in plenty of time. TDP attorneys had previously indicated that if the SCOTUS refused to lift the stay imposed by the 5th Circuit Court, the TDP would then petition the SCOTUS to take up the case in an expedited time frame. The goal being to get a ruling by the SCOTUS with enough time to allow for vote-by-mail for the November election. This particular case will be interesting, as it will test the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.
In the meantime, the Texas Democratic Party’s recommendation is to continue to observe the Secretary of State’s guidelines for Vote-by-Mail. Therefore, if you are eligible to Vote-By-Mail, please apply to vote by mail. Vote by Mail applications must be received (not postmarked) at the County Elections Administration office by October 23, 2020 to vote in the November General Election.
If you’ve already applied and are receiving your Ballot-By-Mail, please remember to mail in your ballot when you receive your ballot for the General Election in November.
Early voting for the General Election is slated to starts October 13th through October 30th. We will update Early Voting dates if they change. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.
The Texas Democratic Party (TDP) continues to challenge Republican voter suppression efforts and has been working to protect voting rights. The Vote-by-Mail lawsuit is only one of several cases the TDP has filed for such Voter Suppression issues as Straight-Ticket Voting, Voter Registration Complaints at DPS, Electronic Signature Ban, Ballot Positioning, and Mobile Polling Locations, GO HERE TO LEARN MORE>>> about how the Texas Democratic Party is working hard to protect ALL citizens’ right to vote.