Texas officials debate over absentee voting provisions

COVID-19 is causing issues for Texas voters. As many fear getting sick from lining up at the ballot box, state Democrats and other civic groups want to ease absentee voting restrictions.

As a result of a recent lawsuit, Judge Tim Sulak said he would issue a temporary injunction, allowing voters who risk exposure to the coronavirus to ask for a mail-in ballot. While the judge’s decision may face an appeal, it could change how Texans participate in the July primary runoff.

Absentee voting in Texas typically limited

Until recently, voting outside of a local precinct has been very limited in the Lone Star State. Usually, voters can only get an absentee ballot if they:

  • Are 65 years or older
  • Have a substantial disability
  • Suffer from a severe illness
  • Are outside of the country during the election period
  • Are confined in jail

But now, there are debates over the Texas election code’s definition of “disability.” The election code defines disability as an illness or physical condition that could damage the voter’s health if they show up at the polls. Judge Sulak says the term is vague and could apply to any voter in Texas.

Others argue against absentee expansion

While Judge Sulak approves of allowing Texans to vote from home, other officials don’t share the same sentiment. The Texas attorney general’s office says the law only allows those who have an actual sickness or disability to send in an absentee ballot, not voters who worry about catching COVID-19.

Injunction could change the voting process

While Judge Sulak’s order hasn’t been issued, it could change the election and ballot-counting process if it passes. If municipalities have any questions regarding these potential changes, they should reach out to a knowledgeable and experienced election law attorney.