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We already have the power to do more voting by mail

KUT points to a path forward that could get a lot more people voting by mail in Texas.

Texas has one of the most restrictive vote-by-mail laws in the country, but it is open to some of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Grace Chimene, the president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, says she hopes the state and counties encourage eligible voters to mail in their ballots.

In Texas, people over 65 can apply for mail-in ballots, so the state’s older population can obtain a ballot ahead of elections.

People with underlying health issues can also apply. Whether those people qualify, however, largely depends on the county election officials who administer elections in the state.

Chimene said it’s possible many people with some health issues could qualify as disabled, which is one of the categories of people allowed to vote by mail here, but those qualifications could be clearer.

“I would like the secretary of state’s office to really explain who qualifies, who can vote absentee,” Chimene said. “I think it’s not super clear.”

Travis County Clerk Dana Debouvoir said that a disability can be a “fungible” thing that changes often throughout a person’s life. She says this could be a category that would allow people who should stay away from large groups because of COVID-19 concerns to vote at home.

“Here at the elections office we are not doctors,” Debouvoir said. “So if you say on one of those forms that you have a disability, we are going to believe you. I am not going to reject an application for ballot by mail on the basis that I think or don’t think someone has a disability. That’s not going to work right now.”

Chimene said she thinks state officials should make it clear if “sick” or disabled could apply to many of these voters who have underlying health issues, like a chronic disease or immunodeficiency.

“What qualifies as sick should be something that we are encouraging the secretary of state to expand on,” Chimene said.

As the story notes, not a lot of people 65 and older, who are eligible to vote by mail no questions asked, take advantage of it now. Travis County Clerk Dana Debouvoir puts the figure at 10-15% there, and I’d bet it’s similar in Harris County. We could already have a lot more people voting by mail right now if they wanted to. The HCDP has a program where it sends a vote by mail application to all of its known-to-be-Democratic voters and then calls them to remind them to send it in (I’ve participated in that), and you can see the effect it has had in recent elections. Thanks to the high level of turnout in this year’s primary we have a lot more Dems identified, and we could get a lot more mail ballot applications sent out. It’s up to the voters themselves to take it from there.

I should note, since I pointed this out before, that having more people vote by mail will also mitigate the effect of not having a straight ticket voting option, in that it will not add to the lines at voting locations. That’s another pretty big consideration after this year’s primary, too. What I’m saying here is: If you’re a Dem and you’re 65 or will be by this November, please consider getting a mail ballot. Pester your eligible friends about it, too. Yes, I know, I love going to the polling places, and I’d greatly miss it if I didn’t do that. And Lord knows, we should very much be on the other end of the coronavirus curve by then – if not, we’re in much deeper trouble than we’re in now – but still. This is a thing you can do that would help on more than one level. Give it some thought.

Even more so, if you’re a person with health issues, especially if you’re in any way immuno-compromised, you can request a mail ballot as well. Your County Clerk ought to oblige. Again, we’ll very likely be mostly out of the pandemic woods by November, but again, why not take advantage anyway? It’ll be good for you, and good for the wait times at polling places. What’s not to like?

Now having said all that, there are potential drawbacks to expanding vote by mail, and we need to take them seriously. One, as Josh Levin, the election protection fellow at the Texas Civil Rights Project notes, vote by mail applications can be rejected due to signature mismatches, and elections officials aren’t good at notifying applicants when this happens. That was noted in the earlier story about the possibility of an all-mail primary runoff election. You’ll need to be persistent and pester your county clerk if you don’t get your mail ballot in a timely fashion. Two, if you do go this route, please don’t then show up at a polling place and vote again in person. Every cycle some people get confused about this, and it is a thing you can be prosecuted for. Three, if the GOP suspects that Democratic voters are trying to game the system somehow by getting mail ballots to people who are not 65 but are claiming a health exception, they will surely take some kind of legal action to stop it. It’s hard to say how big a deal that could be, but we really don’t need further attacks on the legitimacy of our elections.

Finally, Campos raises a good point:

On the mail ballots for everyone thing, we need to be careful on this. I am all for going to a vote by mail system in the future. Last week, I watched a CNN piece on how the state of Washington handles their vote by mail system. It is pretty elaborate with a lot of special equipment and a physical layout to handle the volume. I don’t think the folks who conduct our elections in Texas have the infrastructure in place to handle 16 million mail ballots. I just don’t think we jump into this system under emergency circumstances. Convince me otherwise. We saw what happened a couple of weeks ago today.

Yeah, I agree with that. I think we can encourage people who are already eligible to vote by mail to consider doing so if they haven’t already – there’s a clear benefit to that and the system should have no trouble handling it. Anything bigger than that will require planning and coordination, and we’re not there yet. We don’t want to risk having a worse outcome because we weren’t able to deliver on our promises.

On balance, there’s no reason why folks who are clearly eligible to get a mail ballot not to do so, and many reasons why they should. The first order of business is to make sure they know that they can, and then follow up from there. We can do that this year. It’s already in our power. Daily Kos and TPM have more.

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25 Comments

  1. Manny says:

    Once we can get more medical equipment and hospital rooms online, we can probably go back to living our lives the way we were. The reason for keeping us isolated is to keep the spread of the virus from spreading too quickly where doctors will have to decide who lives and who dies.

    Do we have a reserve of doctors and nurses, probably (but not sure) they just have to be called back into service for their country. If we don’t then we should have properly trained health professionals, such as nurse practitioners that could do much of what doctors are doing to free them up.

    Having stated the above health care professionals are on the front line as more likely to contract the virus. My granddaughter is an EMT in Montgomery County, three people where she works have tested positive for the virus.

    We should plan for the worse let us hope for the best for our country and the world.

  2. blank says:

    I looked at this yesterday to see if there was anything “fungible” at the eligibility requirements. I similarly noted that the criteria for “disability” may be flexible. A person is also eligible if s/he is in jail too.

    I still have concerns that even if the 10-15% who use vote by mail jumps to say 50-60%, that there will be capacity issues. If that is the case, then there will almost certainly be delays, which isn’t the end of the world. But, I would be concerned about missing counts like we had in Dallas a few weeks ago.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Vote by mail upon request, given the current situation, doesn’t seem that outlandish, and yes, maybe it should be open to whoever wants to do it, that way, no one has to ‘prove’ their disability or reason. I’m guessing HIPPA has something to say about not having to reveal a double lung transplant to the voter registrar in order to get a mail in ballot, for example.

    But let’s be honest about the voter fraud that would potentially lead to. Say you’re a student living with college roommates. You order mail in ballots for all your roommates, then send them in for them. Or maybe you have people who are taking care of others….elderly, infirm, mentally challenged….how easy would it be for them to just order on up a mail in ballot for those people they are taking care of and just send it on in? Group home caretaker or nursing home staffer? Shit, order up ballots for everyone in memory care and go to town.

    Additionally, I’d like to know the semantics about how the request is made? Can I, for example, call and say I’m xxxx, a family member, friend, or neighbor of someone I know doesn’t vote, order up a ballot to be sent to them, then either talk them in to giving to me to fill out, or, say, “Hey, did you get your ballot (they have no idea why they got it), I’ll help you fill it out, ’cause I know you don’t really follow politics.”

    TL;DR: I’m not necessarily opposed to more widespread vote by mail, but we need to recognize the potential for abuse there.

  4. Wolfgang says:

    VOTE FRAUD VS. CORONA-CAUSED ATTRITION

    The number of registered eligible voters that will die from the corona infection will probably exceed the number of fraudulent votes, and the number of fraudulent votes — if any — will only have an impact if they disproportionately favor one party (or candidate, in the primaries) over the other.

    From a rational-choice perspective, why would individuals risk criminal prosecution when there is no immediate payoff for casting multiple ballots? That’s not to say it can’t or won’t ever happen, but it’s not going to be an epidemic. (There would be a much greater incentive to make location-specific batches of votes disappear, especially when the partisan distribution of the vote in the locality can reasonably be projected. That’s the same logic as that one that underpins gerrymandering and selective vote suppression.)

    VOTE CASTING TIMING EFFECTS

    As the death curve rises (premature deaths due to coronavirus), the timing of the balloting (by whatever means) will make a difference. The later the vote, the more voters will have died, or be in intensive care (capacity permitting) or in mandatory quarantine. That, of course, raises the intriguing normative question whether soon-to-be/since-deceased voters should be represented in the election outcome. In this election cycle, the proportion of voters who will be have joined the departed by the time the winner takes office will likely be much higher than in normal times, and in tight races this novel sort of graveyard vote could even be decisive.

    For all of these reasons, voter fraud with respect to alternatives to in-person voting should be a MINOR concern.

    Additionally, consider the number of voters that decide to abstain from elections because they are scared, and older folks have more reason to be scared, or won’t be able to get to the polling places due to logistical issues. While that is not a partisan issue in the primaries (in states that haven’t had them yet), it could have an effect on turnout in November. Abstention rates are not going to be evenly distributed demographically. Perhaps the entire electoral process will be distorted as a result.

  5. Brad says:

    Alaska Bill Daniels,

    Please get off your ‘chicken little voter fraud sky is falling soapbox’ and mention the fact that voting by mail for entire states is already going on in our country.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad, does your wife’s boyfriend make you type such inane bullshit? I sure hope you get off on humiliation, because otherwise, it’s just that much sadder.

    I agree some states do use vote by mail. I agree we might look at wider use of that here. I also understand the potential for abuse, which you were unable to refute. Looks like Wolfgang addressed his doubts about the prevalence of such abuse, and he did it in an intelligent, calm, rational manner. You on the other hand, seem to have trouble putting a coherent argument on the table, and are only able to communicate with the equivalent of elementary school yard epithets. I’m surprised ‘poopyhead’ isn’t an intrinsic part of your vernacular, because that’s the level of cognitive ability you are displaying.

    Go back to fluffing the boyfriend. Adults are talking here.

  7. C.L. says:

    Bill.

    #Trolling2020.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    C.L.: Did you forget the illegal ballot harvesting here last go round? Of course you did!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYuXPCb9sXI

    Or do you choose truth over facts, too?

  9. Bill Daniels says:

    And here’s another good lady from Tejas:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1YUe6_Whtg

    ….but I’m sure stuff like this never happens, so there’s that.

  10. brad says:

    Epic meltdown Alaska Bill.

    I leave the poopyhead comments for Trump and his adoring fans.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_nicknames_used_by_Donald_Trump

  11. Manny says:

    The Real Bill Daniels posts at Big Jolly, have no doubt that Bill Daniels is a racists.

    Bill Daniels recent post,

    “I disagree. You’re scaremongering and telling people there won’t be enough hospital beds, while at the same time telling us that not only is no one going to be deported, but all the illegals get treated for free. “Gee, sorry, good American,, the hospital is full of illegals, you’ll just have to go home and die.” No. That’s not going to be a popular idea.

    Look at the idiots hoarding TP……when it comes down to it, people put their own interests first, meaning, they are going to want to see medical resources go to Americans, not i illegals.

  12. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    You have my permission to republish anything I’ve posted anywhere, with the caveat that you repost the whole thing, and if applicable, the context, i.e. the posts I am responding to.

    Having said that, what you chose to republish for me has absolutely nothing to do with Kuff’s thread about voting by mail. It does dovetail nicely into today’s announcement that NO illegal aliens are going to be let in from this point forward, no matter what formerly magic word they speak, or how many niños they bring with them as human shields…..they don’t get in, they get repelled at the border, period. Congratulations, you’ve hyped the Wu flu up so bad, you’ve given Trump and the immigration hard liners license to do what we wanted all along.

    Maybe choose a more appropriate thread next time, Manny? Thanks in advance!

  13. Jules says:

    Shut up Bill

  14. brad says:

    Alaska Bill always needs a scapegoat to deflect from the incompetent, third-tier bootlickers and grifters running our country’s Coronavirus response into the ground.

    Brown, black, yellow people are the best people to blame when the constituency he is speaking to has almost entirely a Bimbo bread-like skin tone.

  15. Manny says:

    Bill, I don’t need your permission to republish your public statements.

    To make it clear to you, I am letting the world know that your view points come from someone that is probably more racists than Trump. Your views are clouded with hate for people that are different than you.

    How is that contracting job, going Bill? Make sure to thank Trump and yourself for deceiving yourselves that it was just a hoax. If Trump had taken advantage of the time he was given, all this pain on the economy may not have to occur.

    That hoax now may cause the a recession as bad as the Great Depression.

    All that hate that you guys carry clouds any ability that you may have to think logically.

  16. Bill Daniels says:

    ¡Me estoy riendo de las tres hombres idiotas!

    Well, maybe a little more like 2 1/2 Men, since Jules is the girl in his same sex relationship. Still laughing though.

    Oh, Manny, I don’t know if you’re doing on purpose, or if you just don’t know any better, but when speaking about one person, you say racist. You’re continually using the plural version of the word, incorrectly. HISD grad?

  17. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    Saw this, thought of you. You’ve got to admit it’s funny.

    https://media.thedonald.win/thedonald/post/BL26gtkX.jpeg

  18. Bill Daniels says:

    But hey, let’s get back to the subject at hand, voting by mail.

    Interesting article about thousands of non citizens signing up to vote in Harris County every year.

    https://freebeacon.com/courts/texass-largest-county-settles-lawsuit-over-noncitizens-on-voter-rolls/

    “A federal district court in Houston entered a settlement agreement this week between the Harris County voter registrar and the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF). The settlement calls for the county to turn over records on its cancellations of ineligible voters, copies of registration applications that have blank or negative responses to citizenship questions, and all registrar communications with law enforcement regarding ineligible registrants, among other records. Officials from Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, previously testified that “thousands” of noncitizens were discovered on its voter rolls every year.”

    Hmm. If I wanted to vote illegally, what better way to do it than to mail in a ballot after registering illegally. No need to show up at the poll and show a fake ID, just drop your ballot in the mailbox. But I’m sure that would never happen.

  19. brad says:

    Alaska Bill,

    Are you an English professor? How would you grade Trump’s english speaking abilities? Or is even possible to do given his word soup talk speech?

    Saw this and thought of you:

    https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/nov/13/john-oliver-trump-an-iphone-would-be-a-more-coherent-president

  20. Manny says:

    Bill, I agree that fraud is much easier by mail, so why hasn’t the Republican leadership (Texas) done away with mail ballots?

    Always an excuse by Republicans and their trolls.

    Do you think people serving should be allowed to vote by mail?

  21. Manny says:

    That would be serving our country in the military.

  22. brad says:

    Alaska Bill,

    What can go wrong with mail in voting?!

    Oops, I forgot about the Republicans and their pious congressional candidates.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/us/mccrae-dowless-indictment.html

    You don’t think that can happen here in Texas…do you?

    Well, I am sure President Windrip/Trump wouldn’t let that happen.

  23. […] covers some of the ground I talked about here, about how many people could vote by mail now if they asked for it. It also makes explicit what I […]

  24. […] the Kuff looked at expanded vote by mail possibilities, which became the subject of a lawsuit filed by the TDP later in the […]