Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued a letter to Texas county judges and election officials, providing guidance that, under the Texas Election Code, Texans may not claim disability based on fears of contracting COVID-19 and receive a ballot to vote by mail in upcoming elections. Several county officials throughout the State, including the Harris County judge and clerk, are misleading the public about their ability to vote by mail, telling citizens that in light of COVID-19, anyone can claim a “disability” that makes them eligible for ballot by mail.
Disability, as that term is used in the Texas Election Code’s provisions allowing voting by mail, must involve a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from voting in person on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health. A voter ill with COVID-19 and who meets those requirements may apply for a ballot by mail. Fear of contracting COVID-19, however, is a normal emotional reaction to the current pandemic and does not amount to an actual disability that qualifies a voter to receive a ballot by mail.
“Mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are legitimately ill and cannot vote in-person without assistance or jeopardizing their health. The integrity of our democratic election process must be maintained, and law established by our Legislature must be followed consistently,” said Attorney General Paxton. “My office will continue to defend the integrity of Texas’s election laws.”
The lawsuit recently filed in Travis County District Court does not change or suspend the disability requirements required by the Texas Legislature. Pursuant to Texas law, the District Court’s order is stayed and has no effect during the ongoing appeal.