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They just don’t want you to vote by mail

It’s okay if you’re a Republican, of course.

As states across the country scramble to make voting safer in a pandemic, Texas is in the small minority of those requiring voters who want to cast their ballots by mail to present an excuse beyond the risk of contracting the coronavirus at polling places. But the ongoing attempts by the White House to sow doubt over the reliability of voting by mail has left Texas voters in a blur of cognitive dissonance. Local officials are being reprimanded by the state’s Republican leadership for attempting to proactively send applications for mail-in ballots, while the people doing the scolding are still urging their voters to fill them out.

What was once a lightly used and largely uncontroversial voting option in Texas — one even Republicans relied on — is now the crux of the latest fight over who gets to vote and, equally as crucial in a pandemic, who has access to safe voting.

“Ensuring vulnerable populations can vote by mail during a pandemic is designed to protect human life & access to the vote,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said on Twitter this week after the county’s mailing plan was temporarily blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. “Those who stand in the way—using voter suppression as an electoral strategy—are throwing a wrench in democracy. We’ll keep fighting.”

[…]

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick characterized efforts to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic as a “scam by Democrats” that would lead to “the end of America.” In a rolling series of tweets, President Donald Trump has pushed concerns of widespread fraud — which are unsubstantiated — in mail-in ballots. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quoted a local prosecutor saying voting by mail “invites fraud.”

Meanwhile, the Texas GOP sent out applications with mailers urging voters to make a plan to request their mail-in ballots. Fighting in court against Harris County’s plan, Paxton’s office argued “voting by mail is a cumbersome process with many steps to limit fraud.”

Luke Twombly, a spokesperson for the Texas GOP, confirmed the party had sent out ballot applications “like we do every year” to older voters and voters with disabilities that would allow them to qualify. Twombly did not respond to a follow up question on how the party determined voters who would be eligible based on a disability, nor did he respond to questions asking for specifics on the party’s get-out-the-vote efforts tied to voting by mail.

“The cynical explanation is that the intent here is to make it as easy as possible for Republicans to vote by mail but discouraging others and casting doubt over the process following the lead of the president,” said Rick Hasen, an elections lawyer and professor at the University of California-Irvine. “I think that’s a real fine needle to thread.”

It might be in the GOP’s best interest to “encourage voters to vote safely” by mail, particularly as the state’s vote-by-mail rules allow many of their base voters to be automatically eligible for an absentee ballot, but the president is complicating matters for them, Hasen said

“They are caught between a rock and a hard place,” Hasen said.

Some Texas Republicans quietly express frustration that party leaders are casting doubt on a system that they have worked for years to cultivate. West and other prominent Texas Republicans have floated unsubstantiated concerns that increased mail-in voting creates opportunities for widespread voter fraud. In interviews with multiple Republican operatives and attorneys who have worked on campaigns in the state, all suggested privately that the modernized system precludes such a scenario. None of these Republicans would go on the record, for fear of alienating colleagues.

There are some documented cases of fraud in mail-in voting in Texas. But like voter fraud overall, it remains rare.

“This issue … of fraud and voting fraud and all that was brought up years ago, 19 years ago when I was secretary of state,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat who was appointed Texas secretary of state by former Gov. George W. Bush, a Republican. “I looked at it as secretary of state, and it was so rare, so rare.”

[…]

In an effort to combat confusion among voters, Harris County said it intended to send the applications for mail-in ballots with “detailed guidance to inform voters that they may not qualify to vote by mail and to describe who does qualify based on the recent Texas Supreme Court decision.” In its mailers, the Texas GOP instructs voters to “take immediate action” by confirming they meet the eligibility requirements and filling out an application proactively sent out by the party.

[Derek] Ryan, the Republican voter data expert, suggested that a past Republican campaign emphasis on vote-by-mail lends credibility to the objections Republicans are raising in Harris County.

“Voting by mail is our bread and butter,” said Ryan, the Republican voter data expert. “I kind of dismiss that more ballot by mail votes automatically favor the Democrats over the Republicans. That might not necessarily be the case. I think that kind of says the Republicans who are opposed to it aren’t necessarily doing it because they think it benefits the Democrats. They’re doing it because of election integrity.”

But in light of those objections, the Texas Democratic Party painted the GOP’s mailings to voters who did not request them as “a shocking display of hypocrisy.”

“It seems if Republicans had their way, the only requirement for Texans to cast a mail-in ballot would be ‘are you voting for Donald Trump?’,” Abhi Rahman, the party’s communications director, said in a statement this week.

I don’t know that I have anything to say here that I haven’t said multiple times already. There’s no valid principle behind the Republicans’ zealous objections to vote by mail, which is something they have used and still use but apparently cannot believe that anyone else would dare use against them. The screeching claims of fraud are just the usual shibboleth, packaged for today’s needs. We know that national Republicans have largely given up on their ability to win a majority of the vote. It’s just kind of morbidly fascinating to see Republicans in Texas adopt the same stance. Who knew they had so little faith in themselves?

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19 Comments

  1. Everyone knows vote by mail is a recipe for fraud. All consultants both Democrat and Republican all agree.

    https://justthenews.com/politics-policy/elections/yes-america-there-voter-fraud-these-recent-cases-prove-it

  2. brad says:

    Paul,

    When you say “Everyone” you mean the right-wingers at John Solomon’s “JustTheNews” website that that shills for Trump.

    How about I make you a bet?

    Governor Abbott has lied for years now about the “rampant” voter fraud going on in Texas.

    I’ll give you a $100 if you can provide me any documentation that shows more than 35 successful prosecutions/convictions of any Texans in the last decade for mail-in ballot fraud.

    If you can’t provide the documentation, you make a $100 donation to the League of Women Voters of Houston.

    When you say yes you have 48 hours to provide the info.

    I am assuming that Abbott’s “rampant” means greater than 35 people out of a population of 29 million so it shouldn’t be too hard for you. And I am sure that Abbott/Paxton/Patrick already have this information readily available.

  3. Wolfgang says:

    Update on State (by and through AG Ken Paxton) v. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins: Hearing today at noon.

    This is the ultra-vires suit by the Attorney General (and the SOS, though not named as plaintiff) to stop Hollins from sending mass mailer to all registered voters educating them about the Texas Supreme Court ruling of May 27, 2020 regarding COVID and disability (the “COVID-plus” formulation that says that general COVID-19 risk is not enough, and requires that each voter consider voter-specific health factors etc. when conducting the self-assessment to determine eligibility to apply for mail ballot on “disability” grounds).

    We now know (from the transcript of a telephone conference filed as evidence) that the SOS Director of Elections, Keith Ingram, only objects to the attachment of the VBM application form, not the provision of voter-education materials. Mind you: that’s the very same form is freely available from the SOS website itself and from various county websites. The whole world has access to the posted PDF on multiple websites as long as they can find an internet connection. That’s several billion people not eligible at all to vote in Texas elections. And parties and campaigns are mailing the form (or a similar version) to Texas voters. One below-65 individual has even been listed as a fact witness to testify about having received such a mailing from the Trump campaign (exemplars are included as exhibits).

    But Ingram is accusing Hollins of leading voters into committing election felonies by sending the appications form (again, WITH accompanying explanation of the what the Texas Supreme Court has pronounced regarding eligibility):

    INGRAM: “Sending educational materials, like I said in my email the other night, is fine. We would encourage that. So the educational materials — great. Send it. Don’t send an application to every voter when you know most of those people who are receiving it do not qualify to vote by mail, and some portion of them are going to commit a felony by returning it when they don’t qualify. Don’t do that. Send the educational materials. Love educational materials. Send more educational materials, but don’t send the application. That’s where the voters are going to get misled. That’s where they’re going to get confused, and that’s where they’re going to get walked into a felony.”

    Ingram does not object to the mailing of applications to those over 65 because that cohort is known to be eligible for no-excuse voting. But the Supreme Court has ruled that each voter must determine for themselves, based on their individual circumstances, whether they meet the Election Code definition of “disability” as interpreted by them (“correct” reading of the Code), and that the election clerks have no role in this. So, the Election Clerks can’t target for that group like they can for the 65 and over, whose DOB is on file.

    Moreover, if Hollins didn’t send the mailer to all registered voters, it would raise equal protection concerns, or charges of partisan manipulation/selective outreach and promotion of participation. The political parties and campaigns, of course, do engage in targeting, by they are not government officials.

    The NAACP and Antidefamation League have intervened in support of Hollins (with a petition that qualifies as a brief, with excellent coverage of the key election administration issues), and the League of Women Voters has filed an Amicus Brief that argues that (1) Disseminating Applications To Vote By Mail Will Empower And Educate Voters, and (2) will remedy Structural Inequities.

    An evidentiary hearing on the State’s motion for a temporary injunction is scheduled for today noon in the 127th District Court (Judge Sandill), via Zoom:

    You can find the Zoom link here:
    https://www.justex.net/Courts/Civil/CourtSection.aspx?crt=7&sid=1112

    Cause No. 2020-52383 State of Texas vs. Chris Hollins, in his official capacity as Harris County Clerk, pending in the 127th District Court, Harris County, Texas.

  4. voter_worker says:

    The examples cited in Paul’s linked article should be seen as evidence that the system works as designed in that the scofflaws were caught and paid a price for their wrongdoing. The only thing “everybody knows” is that scofflaws exist for every law that was ever written. Should we disallow driving because the practice is riven with a level of lawbreaking that puts these relatively puny election law violations to shame? I would change the title of this post to “They just don’t want you to vote”.

  5. Paul Kubosh says:

    Voter, They don’t catch everyone. Not the way criminals work. If that logic was true then that means when the D.W.I. task force makes their weekend arrests they catch everyone. Republicans and Democrats cheat. They all do. To much money at stake. To think they don’t cheat is naive in my opinion.

  6. Jen says:

    Here is a Reuters special report on how a small group of right wing lawyers has shaped and pushed the ‘vote fraud’ nonsense into the mainstream.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-voter-fraud-special-repo/special-report-how-a-small-group-of-u-s-lawyers-pushed-voter-fraud-fears-into-the-mainstream-idUSKBN2601GZ

    FYI Reuters tends to slant a bit right wing in their journalism

  7. Ross says:

    In that case Paul, there should be no vote by mail for any reason, including military service, illness, age, out of town, or any other reason. Those oldsters are all crooks, aren’t they.

    The Republicans are complete hypocrites on this topic, including Trump, the nasty woman he’s married to, and his stupid children.

  8. voter_worker says:

    Paul, my opinion is that no system devised by humankind is foolproof and the way forward is to take processes that are demonstrably beneficial and structure incentive and accountability components, not to make them perfect, but to make them functional and beneficial to individuals and society as a whole. I understand why you see that as naive in the case of voting by mail but I’m unwilling to scrap it because bad people are breaking the law. Keep the scofflaws under control by sanctions. Just my two cents.

  9. Jen says:

    Once again Paul I with repeat what every credible new source says-

    Voter fraud is extremely rare.

    Not just rare, but extremely rare. To the point that there is no point wasting time or energy discussing it.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-voter-fraud-facts-explai/explainer-despite-trump-claims-voter-fraud-is-extremely-rare-here-is-how-u-s-states-keep-it-that-way-idUSKBN2601HG

  10. Mainstream says:

    Whatever the level of fraud from balloting by mail, it seems to me a bigger problem than fraud from balloting in person.

    I am more concerned about who is really casting the mail ballot, and whether those within a family can maintain ballot secrecy. As an election judge I have had to separate a number of husbands from their wives, when one (usually the husband) walks over to try to change the vote of the other on a specific contest. I can imagine that in some homes, the patriarch is going to demand children living under his roof and his wife bring him their ballots to mark. A similar problem arises with elderly voters with health or memory problems when a caregiver or family member marks their ballot for them.

    I think a robust system of early voting sites would be a better system to preserve the intent of the voter and ballot secrecy.

  11. Wolfgang says:

    RE: “A similar problem arises with elderly voters with health or memory problems when a caregiver or family member marks their ballot for them.”

    But the Legislature, in its sound policy wisdom or otherwise, made mail-by-vote available to all over 65 with no other questions asked, which includes the majority of Alzheimer , frailty/bedridden, and dementia cases, and has therefore decided–as the relevant politically accountable branch of government– that the risk of manipulation/undue influence are less weighty (and discouraged/deterred/and, if need be, punished with criminal sanctions elsewhere in the Election Code anywhere) than the importance of allowing such voters to participate. Stated differently, the absentee ballot statute is pro-participation, not anti-fraud.

    This legislative policy judgment (legislative intent as manifested in the substance of the relevant statute) actually works against those who would restrict voting by mail under pandemic conditions (based on the disability ground) because the dementia/undue influence concerns do NOT apply with equal force to the under-65 segment of the electorate.

  12. brad says:

    Mainstream,

    Based on your concerns for patriarchal influence/interference on female spouses’ voting, what is your opinion about the woman who spoke at the Republican National Convention and who has stated that voting should only be by the “head of household”?

    Wouldn’t that resolve your concern?

  13. voter_worker says:

    For anyone interested, here is the handbook for the folks who scrutinize the mail ballots.

    https://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/forms/ballot-board-handbook.pdf

  14. Manny says:

    All that Paul and Mainstream are doing is parroting what their cult leader wants them to parrot.

    The Republican Party has become a hater of Democracy and of America. People like Paul stand by quietly as Trump calls or service men and women, suckers and losers for volunteering to fight for this country.

    In 2019 two of my brothers and I took a trip to visit the WWII memorial, in honor of our father. We also visited the Korean Memorial where our uncle fought, and we visited the Vietnam Memorial to honor the friends that we lost. One of my brothers was in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne.

    I don’t understand what happened to the Republican Party it has become a party of racists, bigots, and idiots, who hate our country and democracy. All the have are lies to spread fear and hate.

  15. Jen says:

    Federal judge rules Texas voters must be notified of signature mismatches on mail ballots and given an opportunity to resolve the issue before the ballot is rejected. This is in force for November.

    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Texas-voters-must-be-notified-of-signature-issues-15551613.php

  16. Brad says:

    Thx for that great news Jen.

  17. Jules says:

    I will be masking up and voting in person. I don’t see how anyone could vote for trump after the Woodward tapes. He’s a fucking monster who doesn’t care if we all die.

    Oh yeah, and he’s telling his idiotic supporters to vote twice. I can only hope those that do get fully prosecuted.

  18. Manny says:

    Jules, they drank bleach so they are stupid enough to vote twice.

  19. Jules says:

    “The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there’s no proof of widespread fraud,” Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a leading Republican elections lawyer who retired last month, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Sept. 8. “At most, there are isolated incidents — by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/11/trumps-fusillade-falsehoods-mail-voting/?utm_campaign=wp_main&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR2obzE5Tw9vO0zUFFPGDNf8Ahsc9jwg1q8nQxsWAw7T-p613WqQfVjjUGA