The Texas Supreme Court concluded that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a “disability” as defined by the Election Code.
The decision means that election officials in Dallas, Cameron, El Paso, Harris and Travis Counties are incorrect to include fear of contracting COVID-19 as a “disability” on mail-in ballot applications.
Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the decision saying in a statement, “I applaud the Texas Supreme Court for ruling that certain election officials’ definition of ‘disability’ does not trump that of the Legislature, which has determined that widespread mail-in balloting carries unacceptable risks of corruption and fraud. Election officials have a duty to reject mail-in ballot applications from voters who are not entitled to vote by mail. In-person voting is the surest way to maintain the integrity of our elections, prevent voter fraud and guarantee that every voter is who they claim to be.”
Election law established by the Texas Legislature generally requires in-person voting, and allows mail balloting only for those over 65, injured or disabled or out of the country.
The decision is considered a loss for the Texas Democratic Party who had received positive decisions on the measure from two lower courts and most recently in federal court. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:
“Leave it to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court to put out 45 pages of opinion and give no guidance to voters about who can vote by mail during a pandemic -- even after one of the Supreme Court justices under the age of 65 contracted coronavirus last week. This is reflective of Texas Republican leadership that long ago failed to serve Texans’ needs and interests.
Just last week Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann announced that she and her husband has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first high-ranking state official with COVID-19.
The Democrats will now turn their attention to their Federal lawsuit that has been appealed by the State of Texas. After the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rules on that case, it can then be appealed to the US Supreme Court. About that option, Chairman Hinojosa said, “Now, it is up to the federal court to ensure basic constitutional rights still exist in Texas and ensure that Texans have a right to vote safely and not put their health at-risk.”