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Hotze’s latest Supreme Court gambit

He has nothing else to do, clearly.

A litigious conservative activist in Houston, the Harris County Republican party, and a number of Republican officials and candidates are asking the Texas Supreme Court to limit in-person and absentee voting options for Harris County voters during the pandemic.

The county, the state’s most populous and a major Democratic stronghold, began letting voters drop off absentee ballots Monday for the Nov. 3 general election at 11 annexes. In line with a directive from Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, the county also intends to begin in-person early voting Oct. 13.

Prominent activist Steve Hotze, as well as Wendell Champion, a Republican candidate for Congress; Sharon Hemphill, a Republican candidate for judge; and the local GOP chair, are suing to stop that, arguing Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins is overreaching the bounds of state election law. They’re asking the state’s highest civil court to order Harris County to not begin early voting until Oct. 19 — the date set by state law that Abbott extended by executive order, citing safety concerns — and not accept absentee ballots delivered in person until Nov. 3.

[…]

The conservative plaintiffs also argue that state law does not allow Hollins to permit voters to drop off their ballots at the 11 sites, a strategy they claim “creates an opportunity ripe for fraud.”

According to the Harris County clerk’s website, voters who complete absentee ballots may drop them off at any of 11 locations during specified hours, including 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the early voting period and on Election Day. Voters can deliver only their own ballots in person, and when they do they must present identification.

As the story notes, this is in addition to the mandamus request to halt the extra week of early voting statewide. I have a hard time imagining even this Supreme Court thinking that the law supports halting the extra week in only one county. The use of County Clerk annexes and locations like NRG Arena as mail ballot dropoff locations has been discussed for weeks and weeks, so you have to wonder why this is just being filed now. (It may be because it wasn’t an issue that could be litigated before now – the legal system can be funny that way.) Hotze of course was also the first to try to stop the sending out of mail ballot applications, for which there should be a SCOTX hearing on Wednesday. The other stuff, I have no idea. There’s nothing to indicate any action from SCOTX on the mandamus to halt the extra week of early voting, but I suppose that could happen out of the blue at any time between now and October 12, so who knows. Hotze is basically Pennywise without the makeup, but that doesn’t mean that SCOTX won’t join him down in the sewer.

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4 Comments

  1. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    MORE ON HOW THINGS WORK AT THE SUPREME LEVEL: CAN YOU SPELL EX PARTE?

    Nonjudicial Republicans file emergency petition against a perceived political adversary; judicial Republicans on the high court swing into action; targeted adversary does not even get a chance to have his say.

    This is another direct mandamus based on the Election Code. Chris Hollins is the respondent (defendant) and it would have to be shown that he failed to perform a duty imposed by law to justify an order against him.

    Rather than requesting a response from Chris Hollins, the SCOTX instead requests one from the Solicitor General (Attorney General). Who is going to worry about the storied adversary system when the defendant is a Democrat and when the judicial Republicans have such a great working relationship with the Republican Attorney General?

    SCOTX did not issue a procedural order on their order release page yesterday, so the media and the public had to wait until the general update of new docket material overnight to find out what’s going on. Why bother keeping the public in the loop?

    -quote begin-

    The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief or letter in this case expressing the views of the State addressing, in light of the Governor’s July 27, 2020 proclamation, (1) whether allowing early voting to begin on October 13, 2020, violates Texas Election Code section 85.001(a); (2) whether allowing a voter to deliver a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office beginning on September 28, 2020, violates Texas Election Code section 86.001(a-1); and (3) whether allowing a voter to deliver a marked mail ballot in person to any of eleven annexes in Harris County violates Texas Election Code section 86.001(a-1). The brief should be filed on or before 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

    -quote end-

    http://search.txcourts.gov/Case.aspx?cn=20-0751&coa=cossup

    Susan Hays, appellate attorney for Chris Hollins, complains once more about Woodfill sending his e-notice to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan rather than to her, but her email (on which the SCOTX Clerk was copied) wasn’t posted in the new case (No. 20-0739).

    EMERGENCY RULINGS FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE

    Chris Hollins filed emergency motion in No. 20-0715 — the AG’s mandamus against the Fourteenth Court of Appeals — to get the order against him as real-party-in-interest lifted. That motion was first held hostage to completion of pro-hac-vice admission of co-counsel from out of state, then ignored. It’s not even shown as pending in the status section of the docket. And the order against Hollins as real party in interest was entered without him having had an opportunity to respond, and challenge the grounds asserted by the AG/SG why the SCOTX should inject itself into an appeal pending in the Houston Court of Appeals that was going to be resolved within days (and was so resolved).

    Bottom line: Judicial Republicans on SCOTX play favorites; some get instant attention (even on the weekend, if need be), others are ignored and not even given the right to have their say. — Due process? Adversary system?

    — Susan Hays email:

    Mr. Woodfill,

    As you well know, Mr. Hollins is represented by me and other specific counsel at
    the Harris County Attorney’s Office who are cc’d here. You have been
    admonished for this tactic of emailing the elected County Attorney alone rather
    than contacting counsel you know are representing the county official in
    questions recently.

    Please stop.

    Also, as you well know, you already have a mandamus pending against the Harris
    County Clerk, No. 20-0671, and the Court is hearing oral argument on this topic
    on Wednesday in No. 20-0729. I am cc’ing counsel for the State in that matter
    here as well.

  2. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    CORRECTION AND AMPLIFICATION:

    SCOTX did also request a response from Respondent Chris Hollins (sent to the County Attorney rather than lead appellate attorney Susan Hays.) in Hotze’s latest mandamus (20-0751). Here it is verbatim:

    Monday, September 28, 2020

    Mr. Vincent R. Ryan Jr.
    Harris County Attorney’s Office
    1019 Congress, 15th Floor
    Houston, TX 77002
    * DELIVERED VIA E-MAIL *

    Mr. Jared R. Woodfill
    Woodfill Law Firm, P.C.
    3 Riverway, Suite 750
    Houston, TX 77056
    * DELIVERED VIA E-MAIL *

    RE: Case Number: 20-0751
    Court of Appeals Number:
    Trial Court Number:

    Style: IN RE STEVEN HOTZE

    Dear Counsel:

    The Supreme Court of Texas requests that respondent file a response to the petition for writ of mandamus in the above-referenced case. The response is due to be filed on no later than 4:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 30, 2020. PLEASE NOTE pursuant to TEX. R. APP. P. 9.2(c)(2) all documents (except documents submitted under seal) must be e-filed through eFileTexas.gov.

    Sincerely,

    Blake A. Hawthorne, Clerk
    by Claudia Jenks, Chief Deputy Clerk

    http://search.txcourts.gov/Case.aspx?cn=20-0751&coa=cossup

    Hollins Response and Brief from Solicitor General are both due 09/30/2020, which is also the day oral argument via Zoom is set for the interlocutory appeal from the order denying the State’s temporary injunction re: the Hollins program to mail VBM applications to all registered voters. Tex. Sup. Ct. Case No. 20-0729. That case has in the interim attracted numerous amici curiae, incl. the District of Columbia and 16 or so states in addition to the friends of the court who already appeared in the lower courts, and new submissions by Fort Bend County and Dallas County Clerk.

    The DC Amicus offers a comparative perspective, stressing the need for flexibility in pandemic response; the Fort Bend County brief offers a well-researched historical account on the respective roles of county clerk and attorney general in the Texas constitutional evolution to put AG Paxton’s attempted power grab and centralist inclinations into a proper perspective, and to aid the court in statutory construction. It might even be called scholarly.

    Fort Bend additionally points out that the SCOTX is not the court of last resort on criminal matters, that the attorney general’s invocation of the criminal law in the election administration context is problematic, and that the criminalization of voting based on disability is constitutionally infirm on vagueness grounds. Voters aren’t given clear notice about what is an improper self-assessment of disability for absentee voting purposes under the Election Code (as construed by the SCOTX and enforced by AG Paxton).

    The Hollins mailer (prototype included in the 14th COA opinion in full color) includes a synopsis of the SCOTX ruling re “disability” and sundry warnings regarding eligibility, but Election Chief Keith Ingram maligns the Clerk for WALKING VOTERS INTO A FELONY. – Non sequitur.

    On her website https://www.sos.texas.gov/elections/voter/reqabbm.shtml, the SOS still (as of 9/29/2020) does not inform voters of the SCOTX ruling in In re State, No. 20-0394; nor does she present or link that text of the statute. So who is walking Texas voters into felonies?

    And would go after absentee voters to investigate their medical histories in search of election felonies?

    NOTA BENE

    Motion to Stay filed on behalf of Steven Hotze, et al. in 20-0751 in is “under review.”

    Motion to Vacate Stay Order filed on behalf of Chris Hollins 9/18/2020 in 20-0715 is *NOT* shown as “under review” as of 9/29/2020 10:30AM.

  3. […] to vote for her each time. And by the way, her Republican opponent is one of the plaintiffs in the attempted assault on Harris County early voting and mail ballot dropoff locations. I’m sure the Chron would have noted that in their endorsement editorial if they had known […]

  4. […] new executive order is here. This is of a piece with the Hotze mandamus to limit mail ballot dropoffs to Election Day itself. It’s telling that Abbott is just now […]