News & Politics

Texas Supreme Court Rules Harris County Can't Send Ballot Applications to All Voters

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Harris County, the largest county in Texas, will not be able to send every registered voter in the county a ballot application for a mail-in ballot, according to the Supreme Court of Texas.

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins wanted to mail the ballot applications because the pandemic might prevent people from leaving their homes. But the justices said that Hollins had overstepped his authority in ordering the mailed ballot applications.

The Hill:

“We conclude that the Election Code does not authorize the mailing proposed by the Harris County Clerk,” the court wrote in an opinion obtained by the Tribune.

The state Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court in the county to place an injunction on Hollins, preventing him from sending out the applications.

The lower courts, with Democratic judges, sided with Hollins before the case went to the state Supreme Court.

The county had already mailed ballot applications to those 65 and older and to those who requested them. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged the decision, saying that it would unnecessarily confuse people who are not eligible to vote absentee in Texas.

Democrats were none too pleased with the court’s decision.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa responded to the Supreme Court decision by accusing the Republican justices of deciding “against the interests of voters and a functioning democracy.”

“The Republican Texas Supreme Court, along with the Governor and other Republicans, continues to micromanage the lives of local Texans,” he said in a statement. “Republicans will bend the ‘law’ any which way to serve their purpose: maintain power for Republicans no longer supported by a majority of the state.”

“We’re not only in a fight to save our state, but our entire democracy,” Hinijosa said. Well, if democracy is at stake, Texans know whom to vote for.

For his part, Hollins wasn’t quite so hysterical about the decision but doesn’t seem to understand that for 150 plus years, Texans have figured out how to vote without the help of bureaucrats who think they’re too stupid to participate in a democracy.


“It is disappointing that the Court has sided with political forces seeking to limit voter access this November,” Hollins said in a statement Wednesday. “Placing limitations on non-partisan outreach that educates citizens about their Constitutional right to vote should not be acceptable in a democracy.”

Hollins argued that democracy requires him to ensure that “every registered voter has accurate, timely information about their voting options” especially amid the coronavirus pandemic when vote by mail is “the safest way” for Texans.

How does not sending out a ballot application “limit voter access?” Political hyperbole is one thing. But this is nuts. The next thing Hollins is going to try is sending out ballots already marked that voters will be able to drop off at Democratic Party headquarters.

There has to come a point where you trust the people to vote if they want to. Inundating them with missives telling them to vote, ordering them to vote, shaming them into voting is not the job of government officials.

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