The Texas Supreme Court blocked a Texas city Wednesday from mailing unsolicited mail-in-ballots to its residents ahead of the November presidential election.
In order to mitigate the detrimental effects of COVID-19, states have been adopting new policies and plans to ensure safe voting. Prior to the primaries in July, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins publicized his plan to send vote-by-mail applications to all residents of Harris County. Aa a result, the state sued Hollins, arguing that his plan did not conform to the Election Code.
The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ ruling stating that the Harris County Clerk did not have the legislative power to mail unsolicited ballots to his constituents. Rather, the legislature has enumerated five categories of voters eligible to vote by mail—those absent from the country during the voting period, those with a disability, those who are 65 years of age or older, those incarcerated and crime victims whose addresses are confidential. The court also opined that Hollins’ “plan threatens to undermine the statutorily required uniform operation of election laws across the state.” More specifically, “Hollins’s mass mailing of ballot applications would undercut the Secretary’s statutory duty to maintain uniformity in Texas elections, the Legislature’s very deliberate decision to authorize only discrete categories of Texans to vote by mail, and its intent that submission of an application be an action with legal gravity.”
This order will prohibit the Harris County Clerk from mass-mailing unsolicited ballot applications to voters, curbing Harris County’s efforts to make voting more accessible.