Texas Republicans follow Trump’s lead, spread misinformation about election | Abby Livingston and Shawn Mulcahy/The Texas Tribune

As votes continue to be counted in the presidential race, President Donald Trump used both Twitter and the White House to sow doubts about the integrity of the electoral process. Some of Texas’ most prominent Republican politicians, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, have joined the president in amplifying misinformation about the election across their platforms. Much of the misinformation has been centered on the vote-counting process in states like Pennsylvania, a battleground territory in the race for the presidency. The count in Pennsylvania was expected to be slow because of the large number of mail-in ballots and because state law prevented poll workers from beginning to process them until Election Day. Cruz appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Thursday night and charged that Philadelphia officials are “not allowing the election observers in, despite clear state law that requires election observers being there.” U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, said on a local radio show Friday morning that it was disturbing “they won’t let poll watchers in, after a judge’s order, is very telling.”

Full Article: Texas Republicans follow Trump’s lead, spread misinformation about election | The Texas Tribune

Texas: Comal County investigates scope of Election Day tech issues | Leah Durain/KENS 5

Comal County Elections Officials are reviewing voter logs to see how many people could have been impacted by a technical issue at the polls on Tuesday. The glitch impacted ballots cast on Election Day after poll pads were rebooted. Election workers heard from three voters who noticed local races were missing but others may not have known their ballots were incomplete. “It’s very possible that they didn’t realize that it wasn’t on there,” said Comal County Clerk, Bobbie Koepp. “We’re checking each one up against what could have voted versus what voted.” Koepp says the company that makes the poll pads, where the issue seems to have originated, should have notified her sooner and should take some responsibility. “It’s part of my duties to make sure that everybody gets what they’re supposed to get when they come to vote and I do take responsibility for that,” said Koepp. “But in my defense, I honestly feel that [KnowInk] needs to make it right. They need to make a statement and need to tell everybody what happened.”

Full Article: Comal County investigates scope of Election Day tech issues | kens5.com

Texas: Here’s how votes are counted in Texas | Hanna Kozlowska/The Texas Tribune

There are more votes than ever to count in Texas this year: A record-breaking 9.7 million people cast ballots during Texas’ early voting period — 8.7 million of those were cast in person, and nearly 1 million sent through the mail. By the time Election Day comes and goes, experts predict that the total Texas vote count could reach 12 million. The state’s 254 counties are responsible for tabulating the ballots, but they must follow a certain set of rules. Here’s how the process works in Texas. County officials have already started reviewing mail-in ballots. In counties with over 100,000 residents, early voting ballot boards were allowed to start convening and processing mail-in ballots 12 days before the election. In smaller ones, they could start after the polls closed on the last day of early voting — which this year was Oct. 30. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3, and they must arrive by Nov. 4. Once the early voting ballot board gets the ballot, officials check whether the voter is registered to vote and may entrust a signature verification committee to match the signature on the envelope to the voter’s absentee ballot application. (They may use other signatures the county has on file.) The signature verification committee must have at least one reviewer from each party, and the majority of its members has to agree that the signature matches. Because of a ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 19, Texas officials can reject a mail-in ballot without telling the voter, unlike in states such as California, where voters must be notified of a problem with their ballot and given the opportunity to fix it.

Full Article: Here’s how votes are counted in Texas | The Texas Tribune

Texas Supreme Court rejects Republican effort to toss nearly 127K votes | Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

A legal cloud hanging over nearly 127,000 votes already cast in Harris County was at least temporarily lifted Sunday when the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request by several conservative Republican activists and candidates to preemptively throw out early balloting from drive-thru polling sites in the state’s most populous, and largely Democratic, county. The all-Republican court denied the request without an order or opinion, as justices did last month in a similar lawsuit brought by some of the same plaintiffs. The Republican plaintiffs, however, are pursuing a similar lawsuit in federal court, hoping to get the votes thrown out by arguing that drive-thru voting violates the U.S. constitution. A hearing in that case is set for Monday morning in a Houston-based federal district court, one day before Election Day. A rejection of the votes would constitute a monumental disenfranchisement of voters — drive-thru ballots account for about 10% of all in-person ballots cast during early voting in Harris County. After testing the approach during the July primary runoff with little controversy, Harris County, home to Houston, set up 10 drive-thru centers for the fall election to make early voting easier for people concerned about entering polling places during the pandemic. Voters pull up in their cars, and after their registrations and identifications have been confirmed by poll workers are handed an electronic tablet through their car windows to cast ballots.

Full Article: Texas Supreme Court rejects Republican effort to toss nearly 127K votes | The Texas Tribune

Texas: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 | Alejandro Serrano/Houston Chronicle

A federal judge on Monday will hear a complaint brought by Texas conservatives that challenges Harris County’s use of curbside drive-thru voting, according to the judge’s schedule and court records. Houston conservative activist Steven Hotze and three Republicans — state Rep. Steve Toth, Wendell Champion, a candidate for Congress, and Sharon Hemphill, who is running for a judgeship — are seeking an injunction requiring all memory cards from 10 drive-thru voting locations be secured and not entered or downloaded into the tally machine until the court issues a ruling on the complaint. The plaintiffs allege that curbside drive-thru voting runs afoul of state and federal election law. They are seeking the rejection of any votes “cast in violation of the Texas Election Code”; an order to make county elections officials review all curbside voting applications and reject those that do not meet parameters set by the code; and a permanent injunction stopping “a universal drive-thru voting scheme” unless it is adopted by the state legislature.By the time the complaint was filed, 100,000 drive-thru votes had already been cast. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, the only named defendant, said Saturday afternoon the option was “a safe, secure and convenient way to vote.” “Texas Election Code allows it, the Secretary of State approved it, and 117,000 voters from all walks of life have used it,” Hollins said in a statement. “The Harris County Clerk’s Office is committed to counting every vote cast by registered voters in this election. In the event court proceedings require any additional steps from these voters, we will work swiftly to provide that information to the public.”

Full Article: Federal judge to hear challenge to Harris County’s drive-thru voting already used by 100,000 – HoustonChronicle.com

Texas: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at polls | Chuck Lindell/Austin American-Statesman

A San Antonio federal judge has ordered everyone who enters or works at a Texas polling place to wear a face covering as a pandemic safety precaution. Late Wednesday, however, a federal appeals court issued an informal stay blocking enforcement of the order while its judges consider a longer-term stay. The order by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, appointed by President Donald Trump, voided an exemption for polling sites that Gov. Greg Abbott had included in his statewide mask mandate. The exemption, Pulliam ruled, violates the Voting Rights Act “because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, placing them at higher risk of severe illness and death and forcing them to make “the unfortunate choice required between voting and minimizing their risk” of exposure under Abbott’s poll exemption, the judge wrote.

Full Article: Appeals court halts US judge’s ruling ordering masks at Texas polls

Texas counties will be allowed only one drop-off location for mail-in ballots, state Supreme Court rules | Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

In what’s expected to be the final ruling on the matter, the Texas Supreme Court has upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting Texas counties to only one drop-off location for voters to hand deliver their absentee ballots during the pandemic. The ruling, issued Tuesday by the all-Republican court, is the final outcome in one of a handful of lawsuits in state and federal courts that challenged Abbott’s order from early this month. A federal appeals court also sided with the Republican governor in an earlier ruling, overturning a lower court’s decision. The state lawsuit argued that the governor doesn’t have authority under state law to limit absentee ballot hand-delivery locations, and that his order violates voters’ equal protection rights under the state constitution. The suit was filed in Travis County by a Texas-based Anti-Defamation League, a voting rights advocacy group and a voter. In their opinion, the justices wrote that Abbott’s order “provides Texas voters more ways to vote in the November 3 election than does the Election Code. It does not disenfranchise anyone.”

Full Article: Texas counties will have only one drop-off location for mail-in ballots | The Texas Tribune

Texas: Roughly one-third of Tarrant County’s mail-in ballots cause scanning issues due to defective barcodes | Alex Briseno/The Dallas Morning News

Roughly one-third of Tarrant County’s mail-in ballots are getting rejected by ballot scanners due to illegible barcodes by the printing company, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram first reported. Tarrant County Election Administrator Heider Garcia placed the blame on the printing vendor, as officials said the scanners are having trouble reading the barcode on the envelope to validate the ballot inside, which is causing the scanners to reject them. Garcia told the Tarrant County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning that the election board will have to manually recopy the mail-in ballots with illegible barcodes into new ballots under the election code, but that every valid vote ultimately will be counted properly. “What’s happening is we scan the ballots in, and the scanner says, ‘I don’t identify these documents, I can’t see the barcodes,’” Garcia told the board. “When the scanner doesn’t see the barcode, it might as well have been a newspaper that you scanned, it’s just not a ballot.” Garcia said they are having to scan the ballots in, separate the faulty barcodes and go through the same process the ballot board follows with overseas ballots. In that case, Garcia explained, overseas voters receive their ballot via email and print it out. Once the board receives that ballot, they copy it onto an official ballot.

Full Article: Roughly one-third of Tarrant County’s mail-in ballots cause scanning issues due to defective barcodes

Texas order allowing counties to have multiple mail-in ballot drop off sites is upheld, but appeal will likely halt openings| Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

A state appeals court has upheld a Travis County State district court order allowing Texas counties to have multiple drop-off locations for hand delivery of absentee ballots, undercutting Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent directive limiting counties to one drop-off site.But it remains unclear if the intermediate court’s decision will lead to the reopening of ballot drop-off locations that were shut down in Harris and Travis counties after Abbott’s order. Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs planned to immediately appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court to again block the order from taking effect, the attorney general’s office said.The lawsuit, filed in Travis County, is one of several state and federal court challenges to Abbott’s Oct. 1 order, which shut down three ballot drop-off locations in Travis County and 11 in Harris County and halted plans for more drop-offs in other counties. Last week, a federal appeals court upheld the Republican governor’s order under federal law, overturning a lower court’s ruling.

Texas Supreme Court stays order that had blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s mail ballot drop-off limits | James Barragán/The Dallas Morning News

The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday stayed a lower court’s order that had blocked Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting counties to one mail ballot drop-off site. The decision followed a ruling Friday by Texas’ Austin-based Third Court of Appeals that had upheld a state judge’s order blocking Abbott’s order. The state had appealed the Third Court of Appeals order. The state Supreme Court was still reviewing whether to take further action in the case and ordered both sides to file their responses by 5 p.m. Monday. By then, there will be just more than one week left for voters to return their mail ballots in person to early voting clerks around the state. The case centers on whether local elected officials can accept mail ballots at satellite offices. Harris County had told voters it would accept such ballots at 11 of the early voting clerk’s annexes. Travis County and Fort Bend Counties also planned to offer multiple drop-off sites.

Texas Supreme Court rules that voters in Harris County may continue using drive-thru voting | Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

Voters in the state’s most populous county can continue casting their ballots for the fall election at 10 drive-thru polling places after the Texas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a last-minute challenge by the Texas and Harris County Republican parties, one of many lawsuits in an election season ripe with litigation over voting access. The court rejected the challenge without an order or opinion, though Justice John Devine dissented from the decision. The justices had already ruled against another challenge to expanded voting access this month because they said the lawsuit was filed too late, noting that altering voting procedures during an election could cause voter confusion.In an effort to expand access to voting during the pandemic, Harris County announced in June that it would set up 10 drive-thru polling locations available to all voters, the county clerk’s office explained in its filing to the Supreme Court. The county first tested the program with 200 voters in the July primary runoff election. At the locations, lines of cars are guided into either covered tents or a parking garage where poll workers check voters’ photo identification and registration status. Voters are handed a portable voting machine in their car to cast their ballots, the clerk’s filing said.

Texas Republicans’ challenge to Harris County drive-thru voting dismissed | Jolie McCullough/The Texas Tribune

Drive-thru and curbside voting programs in Harris County can continue after a state appeals court Wednesday quickly threw out a last-minute lawsuit filed by the Texas Republican Party challenging the county’s efforts to provide more voting options during the coronavirus pandemic. The state GOP had filed suit Monday night asking the court to place limits on curbside voting and halt drive-thru voting. The appellate judges said the party and a voter who filed the suit did so too late, and did not show how they specifically might be injured by the voting practices. The lawsuit was filed just hours before early voting polls opened and more than a month after the Harris County Clerk announced his plan for drive-thru voting. “The election is currently in progress and the relators delayed filing this mandamus until over a month after learning of the actions of the Harris County Clerk’s Office,” the panel of three judges on Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals wrote in their ruling dismissing the case.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.”