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More election innovation, please

Some good stuff here:

There’s a lot to like in there and in the embedded letter he wrote to Bexar County Commissioner Nelson Wolff, to formalize these ideas. Several of them have been done or have been proposed for Harris County, including sending mail ballot applications to every registered voter 65 and over, having a mega-voting location, expanding early voting hours during the EV period, and having more curbside voting options. Some ideas are new, or at least new to Harris County, such as having a 24-hour early voting location, having more mail ballot dropoff locations, and mailing “a Notice of Election, Sample Ballot, and information on voting safely during COVID-19 to every registered voter” in the county. I love the creativity, the commitment to making voting easier, and especially since this is coming from a County Commissioner, the willingness to put up the money to make it happen. I hope County Clerk Chris Hollins and Harris County Commissioners Court are paying attention.

The other point I would make here is that we could keep doing some or all of these things in future elections, when there will hopefully not be a pandemic to force the issue, for the simple reason that they do in fact make voting easier. I mean, that’s how it should be.

Of course, a key assumption underpinning all this is that there will be enough people to work the elections. Here’s another idea I like for that:

It turns out that this is already legal and open to students 16 years old and older, so it just needs to be better known. Pass it on to the students you know.

For those of us who don’t need a principal’s permission, here’s what we can do:

The Harris County Clerk’s Office is looking for election workers to staff more than 800 voting centers that will be open for the November 3, 2020 General Election. Election workers are also needed three weeks prior to the election to work at approximately 100 voting centers during the Early Voting period, October 13-30.

“We expect a high turnout for the upcoming general election. Early predictions indicate that more than 65 percent of the 2.4 million registered voters in Harris County will cast a ballot in November,” said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins. “We need more than 1,000 election workers for the Early Voting period – which has been extended to three weeks – and more than 8,000 election workers for Election Day. I highly encourage all civic-minded residents of Harris County to consider serving our communities as election workers.”

To serve as an election worker, you must be a registered voter in Harris County, have transportation to and from the polling location, and be able to attend training. Bilingual election workers are needed and encouraged to apply. Students 16 years of age and older can apply to work as student clerks. All of these positions are paid.

“We will take every possible measure to keep voters and election workers safe, from keeping voting centers sanitized, to enforcing social distancing, to providing personal protective equipment to all election workers and voters,” said Clerk Hollins.

If you are interested in becoming an election worker, click here to apply online or call 713.755.6965.

This is all-hands-on-deck time. If you can do this, or know someone who can, please take action. ABC-13 has more.

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One Comment

  1. THE VOTE-BY-MAIL (VBM) LEGAL FIGHT IN TEXAS & INNOVATION IN ELECTION ADMIN

    I thank Kuff for the excellent and continuing coverage of this important topic, and all blog readers who have previously commented on the vote-by-mail issue in Texas.

    The first cut of my article on the Texas VBM fight in the state court system (not yet federal, at least not yet in-depth) is now available on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), and I welcome any all suggestions for improvement, and corrections, should I have committed any errors:

    Hirczy de Mino, Wolfgang, Election Administration in Times of COVID-19: How the Texas Supreme Court Failed Texas Voters (July 27, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3645607

    TEXAS ELECTION CLERKS AND VETERANS WEIGH IN AS AMICI IN THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

    In the meantime, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins and other county election administrators have jointly filed an excellent amicus curiae brief in the SCOTUS, though the outlook there remains bleak in light of other recent COVID-related election cases, and the denial of emergency relief requested by the Dems against the Fifth Circuit stay order. See Texas Dem. Party v. Abbott, 2020, 961 F.3d 389 (5th Cir. Jun. 4, 2020) (staying preliminary injunction order) (motion to vacate stay denied by Tex. Democratic Party v. Abbott, 140 S. Ct. 2015 (Jun. 26, 2020)). A motion to expedite consideration of the petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment was denied on July 2, 2020.

    Additionally, a group of veterans has filed an amicus in Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott, No. 19-1389, taking the maximalist position that the limitation of eligibility for no-excuse mail-voting to those over 65 violates the 26th Amendment facially, even if the classification based on age would pass muster under the Equal Protection Clause (i.e. no rational-basis or compelling state interest review under the 26th Amendment). This is a challenge to the Election Code itself as written (though the Texas Legislature is not specifically identified as the culprit).

    SCOTUS AS DEUS EX MACHINA?

    Harris County makes a more pragmatic argument from the perspective of election administrators confronted with the multifold challenges of organizing elections under pandemic conditions (and end of straight-ticket voting), pointing out that the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling on disability eligibility has not helped, and has rather complicated matters. See In re State of Texas, No. 20-0394, __ S.W.3d ___, 2020 WL 2759629 (Tex. May 27, 2020) (AG Paxton’s Election Clerk Mandamus).

    A favorable SCOTUS ruling under the Twenty-Six Amendment would solve the problems left in the wake of the state supreme court’s ruling by giving all Texas voters the OPTION to apply to vote by mail without having to fear being criminally prosecuted by the AG. This would then relieve the expected surge of volume at the polling places.

    The Harris County Amicus concludes that “the State cannot force millennials and the middle aged to vote in person unnecessarily risking COVID-19 exposure, while senior citizens can vote from the safety of their homes.”

    “The partisan rancor concerning mail-in voting has done nothing but disrupt planning for the November election and is a grave disservice to voting rights and public health. Voters need to know they will have access to safe ways to vote in November elections. Election administrators need to know clear rules for conducting elections during the pandemic as soon as possible. Effectively implementing social distancing at in-person locations depends on having more voters vote by mail. Otherwise, there will be simply too many bodies to move through too few spaces in too little time.”

    IN THE COURT OF LAST RESORT, IT’S ALL ABOUT AGE, LEGALLY SPEAKING, BUT NOT BELOW

    The crux of the legal issue raised in the SCOTUS is discrimination in voting rights based on age. The Fifth Circuit additionally has some other arguments before it stemming from the AG’s appeal of the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, which a motions panel of the 5th Circuit has stayed, pending appeal. See Texas Democratic Party v. Abbott, 2020, 961 F.3d 389 (5th Cir. June 4, 2020) (available in reader-friendly format from Google Scholar; use the case number to search, not F.3d cite).

    In addition to Governor GREG ABBOTT, RUTH HUGHS, Texas Secretary of State, and KEN PAXTON, Texas Attorney General, are named as Defendants-Appellants-Respondents in District Court, Fifth Circuit, and Supreme Court, respectively.