WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a group of 17 state Attorneys General to defend a Texas county clerk’s decision to send mail-in voting applications to registered voters ahead of the November election. The State of Texas is suing to block the county clerk from mailing the applications, claiming that he does not have the authority to make such a decision and that the mailers will confuse ineligible voters into voting by mail. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in Texas v. Hollins in the Texas Supreme Court, the coalition argues that local election officials need to be able to tailor their election rules to protect voter participation and the health and safety of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The brief also argues that there is no evidence that voting by mail—let alone sending mail-in voting applications to registered voters—results in widespread fraud.
“Voting by mail is a safe, secure, and reliable way for voters to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said AG Racine. “Especially during a global pandemic, local election officials should have the discretion to take actions that maximize voter participation, including vote-by-mail outreach. Our coalition of Attorneys General will continue to fight efforts that seek to suppress voter turnout.”
Election experts project that voter turnout in the general election this November could be the highest in over a century. At the same time, however, according to one study, 49 percent of U.S. registered voters expect to face difficulties casting a ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, states across the country have modified their election procedures to protect both voter participation and the health of voters and election workers.
On August 25, 2020, Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, stated that his office would mail every registered voter in the county an application to vote by mail in the November election. The mailer would clearly outline the categories of voters who are eligible to vote by mail. The State of Texas filed for a temporary injunction to block this vote-by-mail outreach, claiming that Hollins did not have the authority to make such a decision and that it would confuse recipients into committing voter fraud since only certain voters are eligible to vote by mail. The trial court denied Texas’s motion for a temporary injunction, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The State has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
In the amicus brief, the coalition supports the Harris County Clerk’s plan to send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters because:
- Local election officials have a responsibility to protect voter participation and voter safety: The Supreme Court has recognized that states have both a major role to play in election administration and a primary responsibility to protect the health and safety of their residents. The nuts and bolts of most election administration, however, remain local. Because of COVID-19, states and local election officials like Hollins require flexibility to preserve their residents’ access to voting while protecting the health and safety of their communities. Hollins’s plan to mail ballot applications to registered voters is consistent with his duties under Texas law and similar policies adopted by state and local election administrators across the United States.
- No evidence exists that sending vote-by-mail applications to voters results in widespread fraud: Since 2000, over 250 million people in all 50 states have voted using mail-in ballots, yet officials at the state and federal level have consistently found no evidence of widespread fraud. There is also no evidence of widespread fraud where states and local election officials mail ballot applications, as is the case here in Hollins’s plan. Further, the mailer outlines the categories of voters who are eligible to vote by mail, clarifying in bold, red lettering that fear of contracting COVID-19 by itself is not enough to qualify to vote by mail in Texas.
The brief is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-09/Texas-v-Hollins-Amicus.pdf
AG Racine is leading today’s friend-of-the-court brief and is joined by Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
Voting in the District of Columbia
District residents can find information about registering to vote and voting by mail or in person in the November election on the D.C. Board of Elections website: https://www.dcboe.org/. Unlike Texas, all active voters in the District will be mailed a ballot—not just an application—and do not need an excuse to vote by mail. Voters can return their mail-in ballot by mail using the enclosed prepaid envelope, but it must be postmarked by Election Day and arrive no later than Nov. 13. Voters can also drop off their ballot at one of dozens of drop box locations before 8:00 p.m. on Election Day or at one of the vote centers during early voting or on Election Day. Mail-in ballots will start to arrive during the first week of October, but if voters do not receive a ballot by October 21, officials recommend planning to vote in person.
If voters don't plan to vote by mail, they can find convenient early vote and Election Day vote centers online, which will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during early voting and from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Registered voters can vote at any of the vote centers during early voting and on Election Day.
OAG also recently published a D.C. Voter Checklist to encourage residents to make a plan to vote.
Protecting Voter Participation
In August 2020, AG Racine filed a lawsuit to stop U.S. Postal Service cuts that threaten the right to vote for millions of Americans planning to vote by mail during the pandemic. Recently, AG Racine also led coalitions of Attorneys General opposing unfair voting restrictions against returning citizens in Florida and North Carolina.