One day after a federal judge ruled all registered voters were eligible to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily stayed that order on hold pending appeal. It is an administrative stay and not based on the merits of the case.

Meanwhile, the Texas Supreme Court held a virtual hearing today (Wednesday) on its stay of an appellate court decision that would have expanded eligibility for absentee voting. During the hearing, justices probed attorneys representing the state about who gets to decide if a voter is actually disabled.

The current application form (PDF) contains a check box beside each of four reasons for voting by mail: 65 years of age or older, disability, expected absence from the county and jail confinement. The form does not require a voter to state the nature of the disability, and the county is required to send them a ballot if the form is filled out correctly. State law does not authorize election officials to verify disability claims (or, for that matter, that the voter expects to be out of the county).

Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins agreed election officials could not reject the application if the disability box is checked. He said the state was arguing that applications be rejected in a voter writes on the form that their reason was related to COVID-19.

SD14 special: Texas Right to Life PAC endorsed former Austin council member Don Zimmerman (R). The group previously endorsed him in the Republican primary for HD47.

HD47: Young Conservatives of Texas endorsed Jennifer Fleck in the Republican runoff over Justin Berry. The group previously endorsed Aaron Reitz in the primary.

SEN: The runoff debate between M.J. Hegar and Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) was moved to June 6 from June 2 as part of the state Democratic Party’s virtual convention.

CD4: The U.S. Senate will vote on the confirmation of U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath) as Director of National Intelligence tomorrow (Thursday) at noon. Once confirmed, he would resign his seat, triggering a special election and, more importantly, an eventual District Executive Committee to select a replacement Republican nominee for the general election. The winner of a November special election would serve about two months. The replacement nominee will almost certainly win a two-year term.

Harris Co.: The Commissioners Court appointed attorney and Texas Democratic Party vice finance chairman Christopher Hollins as interim county clerk. He succeeds Diane Trautman (D), who is resigning over health concerns. Hollins would serve until voters elect the person who will serve the final two years of Trautman’s unexpired term. He assured commissioners that he would not be a candidate in that election.

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