The back-and-forth on eligibility for voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic continued today (Tuesday) when U.S. District Judge Fred Biery ruled that all voters regardless of age qualify for absentee voting.
“Any eligible Texas voters who seeks to vote by mail in order to avoid transmission of COVID-19 can apply for, receive and cast an absentee ballot in upcoming elections during the pendency of pandemic circumstances,” Biery wrote in a 73-page order. He sided with plaintiffs, including individual voters and the Texas Democratic Party, that voters would face irreparable harm if existing eligibility rules forced them to vote in person while the virus that causes COVID-19 remains in wide circulation. “Lack of immunity from COVID-19 is indeed a physical condition” qualifying voters to cast their ballots by mail.
The state will appeal the decision. “The district court’s opinion ignores the evidence and disregards well-established law,” said Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton in a statement. “We will seek immediate review by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court stayed the Fourteenth Court of Appeals decision to reinstate a temporary restraining order expanding eligibility for mail ballots due to COVID-19. That stay remains in effect pending disposition of the state’s appeal. The Court scheduled a hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) on the appellate decision but not the merits of the case. The state asked Biery to refrain from ruling on the federal case until the state case is resolved. For now, Biery’s order is controlling.
SEN: Former Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren endorsed M.J. Hegar in the Democratic runoff over Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas). Warren also endorsed U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) for re-election and former Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) over U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) in CD21.
CD4: U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe’s (R-Heath) nomination to be the next Director of National Intelligence was moved to the full Senate by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The 8-7 vote followed party lines.
CD13 open: Chris Ekstrom, who finished third in the 15-way Republican primary with 15% of the vote, endorsed Ronny Jackson in the runoff over Josh Winegarner.
FEC Confirmation: The U.S. Senate confirmed Trey Trainor to serve as a Republican member on the Federal Election Commission by a 49-43 vote, giving the panel a quorum for the first time since September. Trainor was nominated by President Trump in September 2017. His term expires in 2023.
This quorum may be temporary. Commissioners Caroline Hunter (R), Ellen Weintraub (D) and Steven Walther (I) are collectively 31 years past their terms’ expiration dates. Trump has thus far declined to nominate Shana Broussard, Senate Democrats’ choice for the other Democratic seat on the commission. Broussard would be the first African-American to serve on the commission if appointed.
If a commission vote is required for the FEC to take action, all four commissioners must agree. Any single commissioner can effectively block any proposal.
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