A divided three-judge panel reinstated a temporary restraining order preventing Travis Co. Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir from rejecting an application for a ballot by mail filed on the basis of COVID-19. The decision from the Fourteenth Court of Appeals was procedural and not on the merits of the case.

“We conclude that such a temporary order is necessary in this case to preserve the parties’ rights,” wrote Justice Meg Poissant (D) for the majority. Justice Greg Zimmerer (D) also sided against Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R). Justice C.J. Frost (R) dissented, arguing that the majority applied an appellate procedure rule incorrectly in this case.

Paxton sought to set aside the order District Judge Tim Sulak (D) issued last month while the state pursues its appeal. DeBeauvoir, the actual defendant in the case, did not appeal the decision.

“We look forward to the Texas Supreme Court resolving this issue,” said a spokesperson for Paxton.

With the restraining order back in place, voters may use susceptibility to the coronavirus causing COVID-19 to qualify to vote by mail by reason of disability. Sulak determined it was “reasonable to conclude that voting in person while the virus that causes COVID-19 is still in general circulation presents a likelihood of injuring [voters’] health, and any voters without established immunity meet the plain language definition of disability.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), Paxton asked the Supreme Court of Texas to compel the early voting clerks of five of the state’s most populous counties to reject requests for a ballot by mail “based solely on the generalized risk of contracting a virus.”

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery will hold a hearing tomorrow (Friday) in a federal lawsuit seeking a ruling making all voters eligible to vote by mail during the pandemic.

CD4: Rockwall council member Trace Johannesen established a federal campaign committee for the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath), who is expected to be confirmed as the next Director of National Intelligence this month. If that occurs, Republican county and precinct chairs will select a replacement nominee for the general election ballot. Johannesen plans a “live update” on Facebook tomorrow (Friday) at 9 a.m. CT. Should he become a candidate, he would trigger the constitutional resign-to-run provision.

CD13 open: Former Sen. Bob Duncan (R-Lubbock) and former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R) endorsed Josh Winegarner in the Republican runoff for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon).

CD15: U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) endorsed Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez in the Republican runoff to challenge U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen).

CD23 open: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) endorsed Tony Gonzales II in the Republican runoff.

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