Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a petition Wednesday with the Supreme Court of Texas, urging the state's highest court to make early-voting clerks in Dallas, Cameron, El Paso, Harris and Travis counties follow Texas law about who can cast mail-in voting ballots.
The petition comes as counties approved measures to allow voting by mail for those who fear contracting the coronavirus while at a polling location. Paxton previously sent out a letter to all Texas counties on May 1 saying that "fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Texas Election Code for purposes of receiving a ballot by mail."
Paxton also said in his Wednesday statement that in-person voting is the best way to fight voter fraud.
Dallas county commissioners voted 4-1 to allow voting by mail on May 4, but the issue still stands on contested legal ground. When Dallas County 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 at the beginning of May and reiterated in his statement today that "'disability,' as that term is used in the Texas Election Code’s provisions allowing voting by mail, means 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."
Read Paxton's full statement below, and read the full petition here.
"Texas law generally requires in-person voting, and allows mail balloting for certain limited groups, including those who are disabled. In violation of that requirement, officials in those counties are encouraging voters without actual disabilities to claim 'disability' on their mail-in ballot applications.
“Each misapplication of Texas election law damages the integrity of our elections and increases the risk of voter fraud. In-person voting is the surest way to prevent voter fraud and guarantee that every voter is who they claim to be and has a fair opportunity to cast their vote.
“It is unfortunate that certain county election officials have refused to perform their duties and have instead unlawfully gone beyond the Legislature’s determination of who is eligible to vote by mail. My office will continue to defend the integrity of Texas’s election laws.
"'Disability,' as that term is used in the Texas Election Code’s provisions allowing voting by mail, means 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 voter ill with COVID-19 and who meets those requirements may apply for a ballot by mail. Fear of contracting COVID-19, however, is a non-physical reaction to the current pandemic and does not amount to a sickness or physical condition that qualifies a voter to receive a ballot by mail."
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