One day after a lawsuit from the state’s top lawyer landed on his desk, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins announced Tuesday that he is backing down from his previous promise to send applications for mail-in ballots to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county.
On Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Hollins in state district court, alleging that Hollins didn’t have the legal authority to send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to all Harris County voters. Paxton’s lawsuit came after the Texas Secretary of State’s office threatened Hollins on Thursday to scrap his plan or face legal action from Paxton. Hollins initially said the ballot applications would still be sent out en masse as planned before publicly changing his mind on Tuesday.
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In an interview with KHOU, Hollins said that his office will only mail out ballot applications to county voters who are 65 or older for the time being, and that he would wait until a ruling is made in the case brought by Paxton before making a final decision on whether to send applications to any other Harris County residents.
“Right now, we’re going to send them out proactively to our seniors, those who are 65 and up. We’re going to respect the court’s process, and we’ve agreed to hold off on additional mailers until the court has made a decision,” Hollins said.
Texas is one of 16 states that only offer mail-in ballots conditionally and upon request. State law dictates that only Texans who are 65 or older, are incarcerated, are disabled or will be out of the county on Election Day qualify to receive mail-in ballots. Earlier this summer, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that fear of catching COVID-19 didn’t qualify as a disability in terms of mail-in ballot eligibility.