As elections in Texas have been shaken up due to the government-imposed restrictions in response to the Chinese coronavirus, many on the left have advocated for expanded access to mail-in ballots as an alternative to in-person voting.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is saying “not so fast.”
In response to a request for an opinion by State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth), Paxton says that state law currently allows for absentee ballots for those with disabilities, but fear of contracting COVID-19 does not qualify a person for disability.
“Mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in person as a result. Fear of contracting COVID-19 does not amount to a sickness or physical condition as required by the Legislature,” said Paxton. “The integrity of our democratic election process must be maintained, and law established by our Legislature must be followed consistently.”
The letter comes as Texas Democrats have filed suit in Travis County, arguing that anyone should be eligible to vote by mail if they fear in-person voting may cause them to contract the virus.
Even some local governments have touted the Democrats’ talking point that all Texans should be allowed to vote absentee. For example, just east of Houston is the City of Mont Belvieu, which has refused to postpone its May election in order to pass a nearly $300 million bond. On a post on their Facebook page, the city claims the “option to vote by mail is available to all residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Conservatives, however, have been rightly skeptical of plans to expand mail-in ballots, as the process is often ripe for fraud. President Donald Trump recently took to Twitter to encourage Republicans to oppose such plans by Democrats.
Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans. @foxandfriends
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2020
Additionally, Paxton notes it is a direct violation of the Texas Election Code to “intentionally cause false information to be provided on an application for ballot by mail.”
Empower Texans General Counsel Tony McDonald, however, notes that the letter (which does not constitute a formal opinion) leaves some ambiguity on pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma.
This is interesting. Seems to leave some ambiguity about how those who have an underlying health condition (diabetes, obesity, asthma, hypertension, etc.) that puts them at special risk for COVID might be treated.
— Tony McDonald (@TweetTonyMac) April 15, 2020