Texas Republicans sue to stop Gov. Greg Abbott's extension of early voting period during the pandemic
By Bethany Blankley
Twenty-five state legislators, judges and Republican leaders have asked the Texas Supreme Court to intervene in an election ruling. Petitioners want the court to compel Secretary of State Ruth Hughs to follow state election law.
Citing Texas Election Code, the petition for a writ of mandamus asks the court to compel Hughs “to perform her statutory duties to administer early voting in person consistent with [state law].” It also asks the court to compel Hughs “to perform her statutory duties under Texas Election Code to allow a voter to deliver a marked ballot in person to the early voting clerk's office only while the polls are open on Election Day.”
The law requires “early voting by personal appearance [to] begin on the 17th day before election day and continue through the fourth day before election day…,” the petition states.
Petitioners to the court include some of the heaviest hitters in the Republican Party in Texas. They argue that Gov. Greg Abbott has gone too far in issuing ongoing executive orders that have suspended, changed and created laws in violation of the Texas Constitution.
Abbott recently extended early voting by six days, moving the start date from Oct. 19 to Oct. 13, which violates Texas Election Code, the petitioners argue.
The law states that “early voting by personal appearance begins on the 17th day before Election Day and continues through the fourth day before election day…”
Hughs also intends to allow “a voter to deliver a marked ballot [by mail] in person to the early voting clerk’s office prior to and including Election Day,” Nov. 3, the petition states.
Doing so is also contrary to Texas Election Code, the petitioners argue. State law stipulates, “The voter may deliver a marked ballot in person to the early voting clerk's office only while the polls are open on Election Day.”
Because statewide voting is fast approaching, they are asking the Texas Supreme Court to intervene.
Petitioners to the court include the Republican Party of Texas and its chairman, Allen West; the Harris County Republican Party and its chairman, Keith Nielson; Dr. Robin Armstrong, a Republican National Committeeman for Texas; Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller; Galveston County Judge Mark Henry; state Sens. Charles Perry, Donna Campbell and Pat Fallon; and state Reps. Bill Zedler, Cecil Bell, Jr., Steve Toth, and Dan Flynn.
They also include two candidates running for office on the November ballot: Sharon Hemphill, a Republican nominee for Texas 80th District Court Judge in Harris County, and Republican candidate for the state House Bryan Slaton, among others.
“Governor Abbott seems to have forgotten that the Texas Constitution is not a document that he consults at his convenience,” Houston-based attorney representing the petitioners, Jared Woodfill, told The Center Square.
When the governor first ordered the closure of restaurants, schools and businesses he deemed “nonessential,” he also said every option, including a special session, was up for consideration, the petitioners argue.
According to the state constitution, only the governor can convene a special session. Despite repeated requests made by state legislators to call one, Abbott has refused to do so.
Abbott told reporters this summer at a news conference that changes to laws and regulations could be made more quickly by executive order than if the legislature were to convene.