AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Supreme Court has ordered a stay on a temporary order issued by a Houston appellate court in the Travis County vote-by-mail case.
Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals, in a divided decision Thursday, granted temporary relief for plaintiffs from the Texas attorney general’s challenge to a Travis County trial court’s ruling that mail ballots met the state-law disability provision for voters to mail ballots, says the Court.
In a petition, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the appeals court’s temporary relief violates the state’s statutory right, while an appeal is pending, to delay a judgment restraining county election officials from denying applications for mail-in ballots.
Plaintiffs contend the Houston court’s temporary order kept the status quo while the attorney general challenged the court’s decision to permit ballots-by-mail on appeal.
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Also, the Court scheduled oral argument Wednesday in a related mandamus case in which the Court says Paxton seeks to rescind a decision allowing preparations for mail ballots based on the disability provision. In that case, Paxton alleges that election officials in Travis, Cameron, Dallas, Harris, and El Paso counties intend to violate the Texas Election Code by providing mail-in ballots to voters who fear contracting COVID-19.
Paxton issued a statement, commending the Court for the stay on the appellate court's order that he says would have prevented state officials from enforcing state law regarding mail-in ballots.
“The Travis County trial court’s decision to allow everyone to vote by mail is contrary to state law and will be reversed on appeal," Paxton said. "I am pleased that today the Texas Supreme Court confirmed that my office may continue to prosecute voter fraud and issue guidance on mail-in ballots while that appeal plays out."
Close to 6,000 people have signed a petition from Progress Texas calling on Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, and Paxton to institute no-excuse vote-by-mail for the state’s upcoming elections. Those in support of the voting by mail order argue that anyone with a fear of contracting COVID-19 should be allowed to claim a “disability” and vote by mail.
Paxton said in a press release that the special protections for voting by mail are intended to aid only those with true disabilities or sicknesses.
“Mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in-person as a result. Fear of contracting COVID-19 does not amount to a sickness or physical condition as required by the Legislature,” said Paxton. “The integrity of our democratic election process must be maintained, and law established by our Legislature must be followed consistently.”
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