Yes, No, Maybe - Voting by Mail and the Pandemic

Voting By Mail and the Pandemic

CAN EVERYONE REGISTER TO VOTE BY MAIL?  IT MAY DEPEND ON THE DAY.

In the meantime, all applications are processed.

By David M. Smith, Collin County Democratic Primary Administrator

26 May 2020

Yes, No, Maybe - Voting by Mail and the PandemicThe answer to the question of who can apply to vote by mail has recently been changing almost daily.  As of this writing, there have been five court decisions on this; and more are imminent.

If you have submitted an application to vote my mail which may or may not have hit the Collin County Elections Department on a day an “everyone can apply” order was in effect, don’t worry.  The department is processing all applications received on all days and will be mailing ballots to all.

On April 15, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party, State District Judge Tim Sulak ruled that lack of COVID-19 immunity is a valid disability for purposes of applying to vote by mail.  This opened up voting by mail to essentially everyone.  That order was in effect through May 15, when it was stayed by the Texas Supreme Court, pending their decision on the merits.

However, throughout that 30 day period, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sowed confusion by falsely stating Sulak’s order was on hold and threatening prosecution of county officials, voters and others who complied with the order.  Also adding to the confusion (but positively) was a state appeals court decision upholding the order.

On May 19, Federal District Fred Biery responded to another Texas Democratic Party lawsuit and overrode the Texas Supreme Court’s stay.  He also issued an order prohibiting Paxton from threatening prosecution for complying with the state judge’s order.  Importantly, Judge Biery established another legal ground for allowing everyone to apply to vote by mail.  He declared that discriminating against voters under the age of 65 is unconstitutional.

However, the next day Paxton took the matter to a federal appeals court.  Once again there was a hold on “everyone can apply.”  But, that was just an administrative hold which could be lifted within a few days.

By the time you read this, “everyone can apply” may be back in legal effect.  Either the Texas Supreme Court will have issued its decision or the federal courts hold will be off as the case continues through their system.

Good news: Before and during all the legal action the Collin County Elections Department has been following long-established procedure, in compliance with current law.  They simply accept all completed applications from registered voters.  If someone checks the disability box, they do no investigation.  Per law, they accept the declaration of the voter and process the application, no questions asked.  Thus, they have not been concerned about what legal interpretation of disability may be in effect on a given day.  Every registered voter who has applied will be mailed a ballot next month.

My advice: Go ahead and accomplish applications and be ready to sign and drop into the mail the day (maybe the day you are reading this or within a few days) you learn either the state or federal court ruling is off of hold.

To accomplish an application you may print or have mailed to you, go to txdp.cc/vbmapp

And, by the way, if you are 65 or better or have another pre-COVID-19 reason for voting by mail, go ahead and apply today.

If you have any questions, please call our voter hotline at 469-609-0539 or send a message to elections@collindemocrats.org.