Texas sues over plans to send mail ballot applications

Texas sues over plans to send mail ballot applications
In this June 29, file photo, Harris County election clerk Nora Martinez, left, helps a voter, in Houston. Texas' attorney general filed a lawsuit Monday over elections officials in Houston sending mail-in ballot applications to more than 2 million registered voters. Texas is one of only a few states that has not moved to expand mail-in voting in November over pandemic fears. (Source: AP Photo/David J. Phillip File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The fight over mail balloting in Texas, one of the few states not allowing more people to vote by mail in November, grew Monday when the state sued to stop more than 2 million registered voters around Houston from receiving applications to submit their ballots by mail.

Harris County this month announced plans to send all registered voters the application, regardless of whether they qualify to vote by mail — which is generally restricted in Texas to voters who are 65 or older, disabled or will be outside the county on Election Day.

Several states have loosened mail voting restrictions this year because of COVID-19 concerns, most recently New York. But Texas’ GOP leaders have resisted calls to expand mail balloting, keeping them aligned with President Donald Trump, who has claimed that making mail voting more widespread could increase election fraud and uncertainty. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud through mail-in voting.

“Harris County’s scheme can lead to voter fraud & compromise election results,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on Twitter.

The lawsuit filed by Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asks a judge to stop Harris County from sending the applications. Harris County officials said they previously sent applications to all registered voters over the age of 65, and that it would be up to other voters who receive applications to decide for themselves whether they’ll be eligible and want to cast a mail ballot.

“If the Secretary of State would take the time to meet with us instead of jumping into court, they would see that the information we plan to share with voters provides clarity about voters’ rights and eligibility to vote by mail,” Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that fears of contracting the coronavirus do not qualify as a disability under Texas election law. Voters filling out a mail-in ballot application have to check a box indicating which criteria they meet and return for processing by county officials.

Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs received a letter from the U.S. Postal Service in July saying that under the voting timeline allowed under Texas law, some voters may not receive their ballot in time to vote and some ballots mailed in closer to the state’s Nov. 4 deadline for receiving ballots run the risk of not arriving in time to be counted.

The Texas Secretary of State’s office has not said whether they will make any adjustments to voting deadlines in response to the USPS letter.

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