Texas Supreme Court stops Harris County from sending ballot-by-mail applications to ineligible registered voters

HOUSTON – The Texas Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily stopped the Harris County clerk from sending ballot-by-mail applications to all of the county’s 2.4 million registered voters.

The stay issued by the court comes just days after a lawsuit was filed by the Harris County Republican Party against Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins.

Hollins said Monday it was his duty to send the mail-in ballot applications to the public because the coronavirus pandemic had closed his office to all but those with appointments.

A spokeswoman for Hollins’ office said no applications had been sent to voters under the age of 65 because the clerk was waiting to get a decision from the court.

After Wednesday’s ruling, Hollins said in a written statement that his top priority is to protect the right to vote and that voting by mail was the safest way to do that amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said his office will continue to send applications to voters who are 65 or older who are automatically eligible to vote by mail. Hollins full statement is below.

In Texas, you are allowed to vote by mail if:

  • You will be away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period.
  • You are sick or disabled.
  • You will be 65 years of age or older on Election Day.
  • You are confined in jail, but eligible to vote.

Statement from Hollins

“Our office’s top priority is to protect the right to vote and, during the time of COVID-19, to ensure that Harris County voters can cast their ballots safely. Since voting by mail is the safest way to vote, it is my duty to educate voters on who qualifies to vote by mail and make it convenient for qualified voters to apply.

“The Secretary of State and Attorney General have made it clear that they don’t want us to proactively send applications to voters—they think making it convenient to apply is a bad thing. We disagree, and fortunately, the law is on our side.

“While we await a decision from the court, we will send applications to voters aged 65 and over who are automatically eligible to vote by mail, as we did in June for the July Primary Runoff. We look forward to sending applications to other eligible voters after we have our day in court.

“The stay that the Texas Supreme Court issued today simply affirms what we already agreed to—we will have a hearing in Harris County District Court in the coming days and then proceed as planned.”

Clarification:The headline has been updated to clarify that the order only applies to registered voters who are ineligible to vote by mail.

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