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Home | Tag Archives: voting in texas

Tag Archives: voting in texas

Federal judge says all Texas voters can apply to vote by mail during pandemic

A federal judge opened a path for a massive expansion in absentee voting in Texas by ordering Tuesday that all state voters, regardless of age, qualify for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

Days after a two-hour preliminary injunction hearing in San Antonio, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery agreed with individual Texas voters and the Texas Democratic Party that voters would face irreparable harm if existing age eligibility rules for voting by mail remain in place for elections held while the coronavirus remains in wide circulation. Under his order, which the Texas attorney general said he would immediately appeal, voters under the age of 65 who would ordinarily not qualify for mail-in ballots would now be eligible.

Biery’s ruling covers Texas voters “who seek to vote by mail to avoid transmission of the virus.”

In a lengthy order, which he opened by quoting the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Biery said he had concerns for the health and safety of voters and stated the right to vote “should not be elusively based on the whims of nature.”

“Two hundred forty-years on, Americans now seek Life without fear of pandemic, Liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease and the pursuit of Happiness without undue restrictions,” Biery wrote.

“There are some among us who would, if they could, nullify those aspirational ideas to return to the not so halcyon and not so thrilling days of yesteryear of the Divine Right of Kings, trading our birthright as a sovereign people for a modern mess of governing pottage in the hands of a few and forfeiting the vision of America as a shining city upon a hill,” he said.

In the federal lawsuit, the Texas Democrats argued that holding traditional elections under the circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic would impose unconstitutional and illegal burdens on voters unless state law was clarified to expand who can qualify to vote by mail.

Under existing law, Texas voters qualify for ballots they can fill out at home and mail only if they are 65 years or older, have a disability or illness, will be out of the county during the election period, or are confined in jail.

The Democrats argued that the age limitation violates the U.S. Constitution because it would impose additional burdens on voters who are younger than 65 during the pandemic, and Biery agreed. Biery also found the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in proving the rules violate the 26th Amendment’s protections against voting restrictions that discriminate based on age.

In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he would seek immediate review of the ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The district court’s opinion ignores the evidence and disregards well-established law,” Paxton said.

In ruling against the state, Biery cast aside arguments made by Paxton’s office that he should wait until a case in state district court is fully adjudicated. In that case, state District Judge Tim Sulak ruled that susceptibility to the coronavirus counts as a disability under the state election code. The Texas Supreme Court put that ruling on hold last week.

During a hearing last week in federal court, Biery scrutinized the state’s argument that it had a significant interest in enforcing existing absentee voting requirements to preserve “the integrity of its election” and to prevent voter fraud.

The attorney general’s office had submitted testimony from the long-winding litigation over the state’s voter ID law that touched on instances of fraud involving the mail ballots of voters who are 65 or older or voters in nursing homes.

“So what’s the rational basis between 65 and 1 day and one day less than 65?” Biery asked.

In his ruling, Biery said the state had cited “little or no evidence” of widespread fraud in states where voting by mail is more widely used.

“The Court finds the Grim Reaper’s scepter of pandemic disease and death is far more serious than an unsupported fear of voter fraud in this sui generis experience,” Biery said. “Indeed, if vote by mail fraud is real, logic dictates that all voting should be in person.”

The case in Biery’s court is part of a growing collection of legal challenges to the state’s existing rules for absentee voting. In other lawsuits, Paxton has argued that a fear of contracting the virus while voting in person doesn’t meet the state’s definition of a disability.

But Biery also took issue with Paxton’s reading of the state’s voting-by-mail qualifications.

The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.” Biery opined that Paxton’s interpretation “rendered the statute unconstitutionally vague” because it left unclear which voters qualify to vote by mail under its provisions.

Biery also found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that Paxton’s statements on voting by mail amounted to unlawful voter intimidation.

Paxton previously issued guidance to local election officials in which he raised the prospect that “third parties” could face criminal sanctions if they advise voters who typically do not qualify for mail-in ballots to request them under the circumstances allowed by Sulak’s ruling. Paxton has also claimed in public statements that expanding eligibility for absentee voting “will only serve to undermine the security and integrity of our elections.”

“Defendant Paxton’s statements operate to discourage voters from seeking mail-in ballots because of their fear of criminal sanction or victimization by fraud,” Biery wrote, “and have the intention and the effect of depriving legally eligible voters’ access to the franchise.”

In a live interview as news of the ruling broke, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated he expected the ongoing cases to wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Here’s the important deal, and that is we want people to vote based upon our current laws,” Abbott said. “We want them to be able to vote safely, and we want to do so in the way that does the most to reduce any potential fraud.”

Author: ALEXA URAThe Texas Tribune

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

Democratic presidential candidates begin to crowd Texas for final pre-primary sprint

HOUSTON — The Democratic presidential candidates have begun flooding Texas for the final sprint before the state’s delegate-rich primary Tuesday.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg kicked off the packed homestretch schedule here Thursday morning, branding Super Tuesday as “our chance to nominate a candidate who will liberate us from the insanity of Donald Trump.” Addressing a crowd at a downtown concert venue, the former New York City mayor continued to pitch himself as uniquely able to take on Trump while dropping several reminders of the outsize attention he has paid to Texas while skipping the first few early voting states.

“It’s getting like this is my home away from home,” he said of Houston, later invoking the city nickname inspired by its NBA team. “We need Clutch City to come through.”

Early voting for the Texas primary ends Friday. It began Feb. 18.

Bloomberg has built the largest campaign in Texas — 19 offices and 160 staffers — and his latest tour here marked his sixth trip to the state since launching his campaign in late November, far more visits than any other candidate over the same period. But most of his rivals have far from ceded the state, which will award 228 delegates Tuesday, the second-largest delegate trove among the 14 states voting that day.

On Thursday evening, Elizabeth Warren was also in Texas, for a town hall event with Julián Castro, her opponent-turned-surrogate and the former U.S. housing secretary and mayor of the city. She will also return to Texas on Saturday evening for a town hall in Houston. The next day, Pete Buttigieg will headline an evening rally in Dallas, while Bloomberg will be back in the state for a nighttime rally in San Antonio. On Monday morning, Buttigieg, the former Indiana mayor, will head to Austin for a fundraiser, Tom Steyer will hold an afternoon town hall in Houston, and Joe Biden will spend the day in Dallas and Houston.

“This is the moment in history that we have been called to. This is the moment to choose hope over fear,” Warren said to a crowd of roughly 1,700 people. Warren called Castro “a man who fights with real persistence. … He is the best possible partner I could ask for in this fight.”

The Massachusetts senator, pitching her wealth tax, also knocked Bloomberg — whom she laced into during the Nevada Democratic presidential primary debate.

“There are some billionaires who’ve taken exception to [her plan], and gone on TV and cried. It was so sad, check it out on YouTube,” she quipped. “Others have run for president.”

The flurry of events comes as recent polls show a tight race in Texas between Biden, the former vice president, and Bernie Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont who barnstormed Texas last weekend. Looming large for some candidates, including Bloomberg, is the 15% threshold that they must cross statewide and in each of 31 state Senate districts to compete for delegates.

While polls make clear only a few contenders will hit the threshold statewide, the others still have an incentive to compete here for district-level delegates. By Thursday, all but a few of the candidates had announced plans for TV advertising in the state — some of them targeting smaller markets such as Odessa and Wichita Falls where they may be able to pick up a few delegates even if they are not viable statewide.

In addition to campaigning in Texas over the next few days, some candidates are sending surrogates throughout the state. Castro is scheduled to make four stops for Warren across South Texas on Saturday, followed by stops the next day in Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth.

“When my campaign was done, it wasn’t a hard decision to support somebody who also believes in an America where everybody counts,” Castro said, introducing Warren in his hometown. He spoke onstage for a few minutes and later indulged in a few selfies with the presidential candidate.

Texas’ significant role in the nominating process this election cycle has given the candidates an opportunity to show off their knowledge of the issues here — as well as some of the culture. After saying Houston felt like his second home, Bloomberg joked that he considered “waiting a couple of more weeks to return, but the combination of rodeo and Lizzo is just pretty tempting.” He also “couldn’t wait that long for another box of Shipley’s,” he said. Warren, meanwhile, kept her remarks about the state brief, only joking that she “[loves] being here, and I love eating here.”

“I may have to cut this short so I can just eat again,” Warren said of San Antonio.

Early on in his remarks, Bloomberg turned more serious as he addressed Trump’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying the president was made aware of the threat months ago, “but he buried his head in the sand.” Trump announced Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the government’s response to the outbreak.

“These are not things you can jump into, you have to plan and you have to have a staff ready to go,” Bloomberg said, bringing up the public health cuts that Trump has proposed in his budgets. “He’s not leading, he’s reacting — and much, much too late.”

Bloomberg’s pitch found a receptive audience in attendees like June F. Nelson, a 76-year-old Houstonian who said she initially preferred Biden but was turned off by how he handled the Trump-fueled controversy around his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine. She is now fully behind Bloomberg.

“I like the idea that he’s a self-made man,” Nelson said. “I like the idea that he’s not making wild promises. What he says — I can believe that he’ll actually try and get it done. And I think he’s the only person in the campaign that can take on the president.”

Authors: PATRICK SVITEK AND ALEX SAMUELSThe Texas Tribune

Record 15.1 million Texans Registered to vote in November Election

Texas registered a record-breaking 15,100,824 people to vote in the November election, the secretary of state’s office said Wednesday.

That’s about 85,000 more than the office’s preliminary estimate last week, and862,388 more than were registered in time for the March primaries. About 78 percent of Texas’ voting-age population is registered to vote in November, according to the secretary of state’s office.

There was a last-minute surge in applications ahead of the Oct. 11 deadline, the office said.

“It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason that voter registration may have increased,” Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state, told The Texas Tribune. “Traditionally, presidential elections attract a lot of attention, especially when there is not [an] incumbent in the White House. Also, Texas is a growing state and population increases likely contributed to the increase to some degree.”

In 2012, Texas registered 13,646,226 voters or 75 percent of the voting-age population. In 2008, the number was 13,575,062 or 77 percent of the voting-age population.

This year, the three counties with the most registered voters are the state’s most populous: Harris, Dallas and Tarrant, according to the secretary of state’s office. The three counties registered 2.2 million, 1.2 million and 1 million voters respectively.

Read more:

  • Texas registered a record 15 million people people to vote. This number exceeds the state’s registration numbers in 2012 by more than a million voters.
  • Texas ranked eighth-to-last in voter turnout for the presidential primaries.
  • Registering new people to vote is terrific, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t mean more people are going to actually cast votes.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

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