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Where are we with the lawsuit to stop Harris County from sending out vote by mail applications?

Thanks for asking, we had the hearing in district court yesterday.

Voting in person will be safe across Texas in this fall’s general election despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the state’s elections director asserted in a Harris County courtroom Wednesday

Keith Ingram, with the Texas Secretary of State’s office, made the statement while testifying against Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins’ plan to send mail ballot applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county.

“Voters who want to vote by mail, and qualify to vote by mail, they should. And voters who want to vote in person, we would encourage them to do so,” Ingram said. “It’ll be safe for them to do so, and the counties will have a good experience for the voters.”

The Attorney General’s Office called Ingram as a witness in an injunction hearing seeking to halt Hollins’s plan while the underlying case makes its way through the courts. Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Hollins on Aug. 31.

State District Judge R.K. Sandill made no immediate ruling on the injunction, though at times appeared skeptical of the state’s arguments.

At the heart of the case is whether Hollins would exceed his authority as county clerk by sending mail ballot applications to each voter, which Harris County never has done. In the four-hour online hearing, lawyers for the state and county described starkly different consequences of carrying out the plan.

Ingram said Harris County’s plan would confuse voters and encourage some to vote fraudulently, undermining the public’s trust in the integrity of elections. He noted that lying on a mail ballot application is a state jail felony and residents could be prosecuted well after this fall’s election.

“When something strange, or unusual happens, voters are very concerned that this is an opportunity for fraud, and when they think the other side is cheating, they tend to stay home, Ingram said. “That’s the concern about a mass mailing like this.”

Hollins said he simply is trying to help as many eligible voters cast ballots as possible, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when many would feel safer voting by mail. The top of each application would feature a checklist explicitly explaining the eligibility rules. Hollins dismissed the state’s argument that voters would be confused as absurd.

“It would be a very bizarre and highly unlikely outcome that somehow, someone would unfold this fully, go to the very bottom, and think ‘I need to fill this out,’ without ever having looked up here,” Hollins said, pointing to a draft mailer in his hand.

See here and here for the background. You already know how I feel about this, and there’s nothing in this story to suggest that the state has improved on its weak arguments. I’m glad to see that Judge Sandill pointed out to the state that they had no objections before when Hollins sent applications to every over-65 voter in the county. There’s an edge of desperation in this lawsuit, and while one could argue it’s not the best use of the county’s money to do this, the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court seems pretty clear.

Several organizations have taken action to support the County Clerk or oppose the state. The League of Women Voters of Texas, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed an amicus brief, as HEB executive Charles Butt had previously done. The NAACP of Texas and the Anti-Defamation League Southwest Region filed a petition to intervene in opposition to the state, saying an injunction would harm the people they represent. Clerk Hollins’ response to Paxton is here. We should get the ruling by tomorrow, but we all know it will be appealed.

Speaking of such thing, here’s Hollins’ response to Hotze, from that ridiculous mandamus. The arguments are what you’d expect, and given the courtroom action in Houston I’d expect the Supremes to deny the writ, since there clearly is the time to litigate the matter. When they take action is of course anyone’s guess. Stay tuned.

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25 Comments

  1. SocraticGadfly says:

    Speaking of election news originating in Harris County? 14th Appeals largely upholds district court TRO in favor of Dikeman et al, with ruling covering ANY third party candidates, ie, David Bruce Collins, Kat Gruene etc:

    The Court ORDERS that Defendant Hughs is temporarily enjoined from refusing to certify third-party nominees for the general-election ballot on the grounds that the nominee did not pay a filing fee or submit a petition in lieu thereof at the time of filing or at any other time.

    http://www.search.txcourts.gov/SearchMedia.aspx?MediaVersionID=be47dd18-21a4-40d7-a8fa-e60b3c6da39b&coa=coa14&DT=Opinion&MediaID=397f5de2-3317-4e58-b7a0-b4377264d797

  2. Actually, that’s not quite what it is saying. Here’s the context you’re missing:

    “Candidates who ultimately secured their party’s nomination as a result of the convention process, however, must comply with section 141.041. The injunction thus is erroneous to the extent that it relieves candidates nominated by convention of any obligation to comply with section 141.041 at any time. Therefore, we modify the injunction’s language by deleting the bolded text from the following paragraphs:”

    That bolded text, from the excerpt you cite and three similar examples, is “or at any other time”. In other words, the original injunction forbade the SOS and Harris County from certifying these nominees for not paying the filing fee. The modified TRO prevents them from certifying candidates who didn’t pay the fee at the time of filing only. The Green candidates who were bumped off the ballot are still off the ballot. The Libertarians who escaped this fate did so only because the Republicans were too incompetent to file a challenge to them in a timely manner.

    And yes, I am writing about this.

  3. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    WALKING INTO FELONIES AND SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT/PROSECUTION

    Ingram says he does not want voters to inadvertently commit a felony, and that Hollins is leading voters to commit felonies by sending his mailer indiscriminately to all registered voters.

    Think about that concept … you can apparently commit an Election Code felony accidentally.

    But even assuming that Texas has validly abrogated the mens rea element, at least for the purpose of securing more convictions for election code violations, how can it be said that Hollins is leading Harris County voters into committing accidential felonies by explaining the Texas Supreme Courts ruling on COVID-19 and eligibility under the “disability” ground, while the SOS does NOT? On the Secretary of State webpage on which they make the absentee voting application available in PDF, they do not even recite the statutory definition of disability from the Election Code, not to mention the Supreme Court’s take on it.

    So who, if anyone, is educating voters to put them into the position of comply with the law as it stands in 2020, and who is promoting the commission of election crimes by providing insufficient/misleading information regarding the “correct” reading of the Election Court as prescribed by the Texas Supreme Court?

    Note also that the SCOTS opinion in In re State of Texas, No. 20-0394 (Tex. 2020) is not even posted on the SCOTX docket sheet for the case, at least not as of 9/10/2020 9:30. Only Justice Bland’s concurrence is.
    http://search.txcourts.gov/Case.aspx?cn=20-0394&coa=cossup

    If you are Westlaw or Lexis subscriber, this may not be a problem, but what about the remainder of the electorate?

    So, apparently, the Grand Old Party in Power Game Plan plan is to NOT tell the voters what the law is, and then go after them for violating it. And the Attorney General has prosecutorial discretion, so he can chose to go after the voters who didn’t vote the right way as he sees it, just as he chooses not to complain about mass mailers to those over 65 who comprise a demographic that leans more Republican.

  4. brad says:

    Interesting op-ed by the lying Republican who for years has filed unsubstantiated lawsuits about phantom voter fraud.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/09/08/republicans-have-insufficient-evidence-call-elections-rigged-fraudulent/

  5. David Fagan says:

    Soooooooooo, Kuffner,

    “If we are blessed with an all-Democratic government”. Kuff, I have read where you have unequivocal support for a political party.
    When it comes to laws that put up roadblocks that make any political voices outside the powers that write, pass, interpret, and enforce those laws, practically moot Kuff, you support those laws.

    I have one question, Kuff, do you support a one party system?

    If the one party proposed to do all the good, just, and wise actions that an ideal morality would provide, would a one party system be better?

  6. brad says:

    David,

    Effectively there is only one party right now.

    The party formerly known as Republican Party, the Grand Old Party, the Party of Ideas is now a platform-less, moronic, bloviating mass of white grievance and recrimination that follows and enables a malignantly narcissistic egomaniacal reality show host who devoid of any leadership qualities.

    When you said “write” laws I laughed out loud. The Republicans have to have principles, ideas and put in effort in order to write laws. Sadly, that doesn’t exist in the current Republican Party.

  7. David Fagan says:

    So, brad,

    Do you support a one party system?

    If the one party proposed to do all the good, just, and wise actions that an ideal morality would provide, would a one party system be better?

  8. Ross says:

    David, just WTF are you whining about? That’s an incredibly stupid question, indicative of excessive drug use, excessive alcohol use, or anencephaly. It’s not relevant at all. How does advocating for electing candidates of your party of choice imply support for a one party system?

    I am pretty certain that Trump, Abbott, Patrick, et al want a one party system, controlled by the current, insane, version of the Republicans.

  9. David Fagan says:

    You think? Mr. Ross? If the Democrats take over the Texas government they could pass laws that would make it more difficult, nearly impossible, for Republicans to get candidates on the ballot, much like has been done for the greens and the libertarians. Would that be a good idea Mr. Ross?

  10. Jules says:

    David, are you talking about the fact that the Republicans were too incompetent to knock people off the ballot while the Democrats were successful? So you think the Republicans are too stupid to learn what they did wrong and the Dems did right?

    You may be on to something.

  11. Manny says:

    David what do you believe in, let us start there.

  12. Jen says:

    DF is just a troll. Please don’t feed the trolls.

  13. David Fagan says:

    No, jules, I’m talking about if you don’t want Republicans around, and the Democrats take the state, like what everyone is paying for, when Democrats get into office they can institute the same road blocks that has been put up for third parties. Democrats could make it difficult for Republicans to get on the ballot, thus maintaining power. Eventually, the Democrats could be the only effective party in government. That would make it easier to get everything that is valued changed the way Democrats want them. This is good, right? Jules, you have zero support for Republicans anyway, then don’t support them.

  14. Jules says:

    David, I have zero concern about this.

  15. David Fagan says:

    Jules, when Democrats take the legislature, shouldn’t they keep it?

    And keep Republicans out?

    That IS a concern, right?

  16. Manny says:

    David what do you believe in? You keep asking questions but have failed to state what you believe in?

  17. David Fagan says:

    Jen, if I definitely am a troll as you say, I personally invite kuffner to block me in every way, shape and form, because I would not want people engaging in that behavior. I WOULD want people to develop and engage in ideas, and if there is something you do not like about this communication, feel free to put your ideas into words.

  18. brad says:

    David believes in every plank of the well-considered and clearly detailed Republican platform recently approved at the RNC convention.

  19. David Fagan says:

    Check out the big brain on Brad, even I didn’t know that.

    I’m serious, get rid of the Republicans all together and you will have Democrats making the calls. It will leave the Democrats to put forward their agenda with ease and economy. Entertain that idea, even though it’s the one thing all of America fears the most, a one party system. The Democrats realize this, the Republicans realize this, but I don’t think voters realize just how close they are to it. So, I think the question “do you support a one party system” should make voters think about that, just how close they really are. The Republicans and the Democrats will work to prevent this, but they won’t allow other parties to diversify the playing field. This is, obviously, how Brad comes to the knee jerk reaction that I MUST be Republican, because he doesn’t think I’m Democrat and that leaves only one other option, right? That’s the trap these two parties have produced.

    The Green party made history, they are the first third party to elect an electorate in California’s electoral college. It was a woman and a minority, she is American Indian and she ran for vice president with Ralph Nader in 2000. Long before Kamila Harris, long before Hillary Clinton. The libertarian party is running a woman for president, but if Texas blocks them with this law you will not have the option to vote for her.

    This two party system makes this country more divided than is reflected in third and minor parties represent. The Democrats are not saviors to the evil Republicans, they’re one in the same. The Democrats are not making history, they are 20 years late. I think expanding the number of viable parties would give a better representation for the people of this country. But, as always, it comes down to money.

  20. Manny says:

    David you are full of it, there is no evidence you con provide that would prove that a two party system makes a country more divided.

    How many parties does Israel have? They seem to be very divided, they are not the only country with that problem.

    I agree with Jen, you are just trolling, you still can’t get over the fact that the City did what they did in regards to your pension.

    Anyone doubt that David is a troll and Republican go visit him on Facebook, the first post one runs across has a message that it is false information. Then everything else is play your slot machines. That post is about Beto

  21. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    Concerning the orig theme … where we are is that Judge Sandill has denied the State’s injunction request in an opinion order. The SCOTX has been notified. Stay tuned for that and the equal protection fight thanks to 5TH CIR headsup yesterday.

  22. David Fagan says:

    Manny, yes, visit me on Facebook.

  23. […] here for the background. The ACLU sent out a link to a copy of the ruling, which is short and […]

  24. Manny says:

    I did visit David and that is why I agree with Jen, you are a Republican troll. You come to this site to spread false information, that is what Republican/Russian trolls do.

    If you are not Russian in all probability like most white firefighters you don’t live in Houston. Minority firefighter are much more likely to live here in Houston.

  25. C.L. says:

    This sounds like a rage tweet episode typically perpetrated/perpetuated by the current President (while sitting on the can at 3am).