Dallas County commissioners want voters who are concerned for their health due to COVID-19 to be allowed to mail in their ballots in November.
The commissioners voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to pass a resolution allowing it, but the issue stands on contested legal ground.
Voters would still have to apply to Dallas County Elections for a ballot by mail, but will be allowed to mark "disability" if they are fearful of in-person voting during any election in 2020, according to the resolution.
Commissioner J.J. Koch was the lone voice of opposition, citing Texas AG Ken Paxton's statewide letter to county leaders on May 1 that said a reasonable fear of COVID-19 does not qualify someone to receive a ballot by mail. Instead, Paxton has argued, a voter must have a physical condition or sickness to qualify.
When Commissioner John Wiley Price brought the resolution forward, he used an April 17 ruling from State District Court Judge Tim Sulak as support for the resolution.
Sulak's ruling found any Texas voter without established immunity to the disease could vote by mail in a 2020 election as long as COVID-19 remains a present threat.
Paxton, however, said that as Sulak's ruling is appealed through the courts, voters across the state will not be allowed to mail-in ballots due to coronavirus fears under Texas Election Code.
"Disability, as that term is used in the Texas Election Code’s provisions allowing voting by mail, must involve a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from voting in person on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health," a news release from Paxton's office said.
Texas voters have also now filed a separate suit against the state claiming age discrimination over the application of mail-in voting. Voters over the age of 65 in the state are much more readily able to use mail-in voting than those who are not.
Those behind the lawsuit claim while the coronavirus outbreak has made the issue more urgent, the application of the age requirement violates the 26th Amendment and is unconstitutional in and of itself.
The legal contention over mail-in ballots is likely to continue in the state and become a drawn-out process in the courts as election season nears.
WFAA reporter David Goins contributed to this report.
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