AG Paxton appeals latest decision allowing all Harris Co. registered voters to request mail-in ballots

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is appealing the latest decision regarding mail-in ballot applications.

Paxton asked the 14th Court of Appeals on Saturday, Sept. 12 to prevent Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins from sending mail-in ballot applications to nearly 2 million voters.

It comes after a district judge ruled on Friday, Sept. 11 that Harris County could send the applications to all registered voters.

Under Texas election law, mail-in ballots are reserved for a few limited categories of qualified voters who are age 65 and older and voters who are disabled.

READ MORE: How to request a vote-by-mail ballot in Texas

The court has given Harris County until Monday, Sept. 14 at 9 a.m. to respond.

This is a breaking news update. A previous version of this report is below.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit to stop Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins from sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to more than two million registered voters.

The AG claims the mailings are unlawful because under Texas law, mail-in ballots are reserved for voters who are 65 and older and voters who are disabled.

Earlier this year the Texas Supreme Court ruled that having a fear of COVID-19 does not qualify as "disabled."

Last week, county commissioners voted to give County Clerk Chris Hollins the funding to send every registered voter in Harris County an application by mail.
The vote drew immediate disapproval from Republican senator Paul Bettencourt who asked the secretary of state for an opinion.

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins released the following statement:
"Our lines of communication are open, and I'm happy to meet with the Secretary of State and any other important stakeholders about our plans to share information about voting by mail with all registered voters. Along with an application, each voter will receive detailed information about who qualifies to vote by mail and who doesn't. If the Secretary of State would take the time to meet with us instead of jumping into court, they would see that the information we plan to share with voters provides clarity about voters' rights and eligibility to vote by mail."


EMBED More News Videos

Zoom interview with Democratic Party counsel Chad Dunn concerning mail-in ballot issue.



"The vast majority of people on the voter rolls don't qualify for a mail-in ballot," said Bettencourt. "They're not 65, not sick, etc. Not only is it a waste of taxpayer money, a big waste of money, I believe it's not actually authorized under the code and the secretary of state letter confirms that."

In a letter sent to Hollins, the SOS said, in part:

"At a minimum, sending an application to every registered voter will confuse voters about their ability to vote by mail. Earlier this year and continuing, there have been a number of lawsuits challenging the fact that Texas law requires a reason to vote by mail. Thus far the challenged law remains the same in spite of these lawsuits. An official application from your office will lead many voters to believe they are allowed to vote by mail, when they do not qualify."

The letter further gave Collins a deadline of Monday, Aug. 31 to comply, or he would face legal action.
Harris County commissioner Rodney Ellis, who voted to give Hollins the funding to mail out the ballot applications, said the disapproval from the senator is nonsense.

"What I think is that senator Bettencourt needs to focus to get more people to vote for his side, then to suppress the vote," said Ellis. "We are well within the law. You can go online right now and apply for a mail-in ballot. All we're doing is sending people the application."

Hollins released the following statement regarding the issue:
"Providing more information and resources to voters is a good thing, not a bad thing. We have already responded to the Secretary of State's office offering to discuss the matter with them."

If you have not registered to vote, you have until Oct. 5 to do so.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.