It seems unlikely a move to expand the population of Texans who can vote by mail will get a fair hearing this week before the Texas Supreme Court.

It’s a highly partisan issue. Republicans tend to be against it, Democrats for it. And unfortunately in this case, the state’s court system, in which judges are elected, also can be highly partisan.

All nine members of the court are Republicans.

It’s possible for members of the court to rise above their party’s long opposition to extending mail-in voting rights to more Texans. It is unlikely, however, and that’s a shame and a disservice to voters and to democracy.

This is a long-running conflict between the two major parties, but at issue now is a lawsuit Texas Democrats filed in effort to expand mail-in voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic. The argument is people at risk of infection should be allowed to vote by mail because the law allows people to claim a disability if they have a “sickness or physical condition.”

Lack of immunity to COVID-19 is a physical condition, the lawsuit argues.

Both a Travis County district court and the Texas 14th Court of Appeals agreed, which meant practically all Texans could vote by mail.

The supreme court, however, blocked the expansion until it can hear arguments, which are scheduled for Wednesday.

There’s no good reason for the state to deny most all Texans, and those worried about contracting the coronavirus, the same voting option it already extends to some Texans during every election.

The main argument against allowing mail-in voting is doing so would lead to fraud, as Attorney General Ken Paxton argued when he urged the Texas Supreme Court to intervene.

Interestingly, Paxton is making the same fundamental argument gun control advocates use in attempts to justify curtailing firearms ownership. Guns should be restricted or banned among all because a few might use them in crime. The more guns the more crime. The more mail-in ballots the more crime.

It’s a weak argument in both cases and both are examples of laws that punish the law-abiding in attempt to control those inclined to break the law.

It’s also interesting to look at who can vote by mail now.

Among them are the disabled, which is reasonable.

Also among them is anyone 65 or older. That’s almost certainly the biggest population of mail-in voters. It also highlights the biggest flaw in arguments for keeping the law exactly as restrictive as it is now.

Anybody who has looked around lately knows 65 isn’t what it used to be. Plenty of people 65 and much older typically engage in activities far more arduous than going to the polls now and then.

People 65 and older are no less likely to be dishonest than the general population.

So if fraud is really the issue, age alone shouldn’t be considered at all in granting the right to vote by mail.

The punch line in the fraud joke, however, is that people who are incarcerated are eligible for mail-in voting. They can be trusted to cast mail-in ballots, but the rest of us can’t be.

Voting rights activists and Democrats will argue the GOP’s opposition to mail-in voting has nothing to do with fraud and everything to do with the demographics of voting and suppressing turnout.

One prong of that theory is older people tend to vote more conservatively. The other is that denying mail-in voting to most people keeps turnout low, which favors Republican candidates. So, by setting a limit at the mostly arbitrary age of 65, Republicans are granting a right mostly to people most likely to vote Republican.

It is hard to square allowing healthy, mobile 60-somethings an exclusive right to mail it in with the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

It’s impossible to justify doing so with the old strawman argument about fraud.

If fraud is the problem, mail-in voting should be restricted even more. Physical infirmity and incarceration alone should determine eligibility.

The Texas Supreme Court should, but probably won’t, allow the mail-in option for most Texans. Killing the option certainly will look like a partisan act meant to suppress turnout.

The thing about voter suppression tricks like this, however, is they work only when voters allow them to.

If the court kills the mail-in option and that makes you mad, stay mad and go vote on Election Day.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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(55) comments

PD Hyatt

If people can go to the grocery store safely then why can they not go and vote? Why is it that the MSM is so for voting by mail and for a long time they have been against voter ID? BTW, it seems that so many of you in the MSM do not understand that America is not a democracy, as our nation is a Republic and there is a vast difference between the two, and I am so thankful that our founding fathers did know the difference and set this nation up as a Republic!

Don Schlessinger

[thumbup]

domenico nuckols

Is there voter fraud IN Texas – NO! Attempted voter suppression IN Texas YES! We have to have a Plan B to ensure Democracy is preserved!

Carlos Ponce

What domenico calls "voter suppression" thwarts voter fraud. If you don't vote in the primary runoffs or in the November General election don't blame COVID-19. That's just an excuse for supporting a lackluster candidate. If you have fear, talk to your doctor about taking a prophylactic. To take hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic you must have a good heart. Does that eliminate many Democrats? Talk with your cardiologist. My cardiologists tells me I have a good heart.

Carlos Ponce

"unlikely a move to expand the population of Texans who can vote by mail will get a fair hearing this week before the Texas Supreme Court"

A very partisan Left leaning statement. At least it's on the Editorial page.

I see the Texas Supreme Court reaching a fair decision according to law of the State of Texas and the Constitutions of the State of Texas and the United States.

There are nine members of the Texas Supreme Court: Nathan Hecht, Jimmy Blacklock, Debra Lehrmann, John P. Devine, Paul W. Green, Jane Bland, Jeffrey S. Boyd, J. Brett Busby and Eva Guzman. Who does Michael A . Smith think cannot render a fair decision? Is your opinion based on actual decisions from the bench contrary to the laws and Constitutions of the state of Texas and the United States or simply because there is an "R" beside the name? Methinks it's the latter.

domenico nuckols

Voter suppression is making it difficult to vote i.e. closing poling stations, purging voter rolls, pole tax, etc. It thwarts one’s constitutional right to vote. Carlos is getting personal.

Carlos Ponce

domenico, have you ever found it difficult to vote?

Have you ever found a polling place listed in the GCDN that was closed when you got there? It's your responsibility to find out where they are and you may vote in ANY Galveston County polling place.

Have you ever had your name purged without adequate reason? I understand some had their named purged because their voter's registration card was returned by the Postal Service.

I never paid a "pole tax" but understand there was a POLL tax when Democrats ran the county.

I'm not getting personal, I'm getting LEGAL.

There are provisions for the elderly, the handicapped, those who will not be in county during polling.

Have you been out of your house since this started domenico? If you can leave your domicile, you can go vote.

domenico nuckols

Attempted purge four years ago. My Texas D/L was issued 1985. I registered to vote in Galveston County 1989. Became a Volunteer Register of Voters 12 years or so ago. I received a notice that my voter registration was go to be canceled if I did not come down and prove that my D/L was correct. Many other received the same notice. Pole tax voter ID. If you can’t afford an ID you can go to the same place you register to vote to get an ID. Wouldn’t you voter registration card to the same?

Carlos Ponce

"If you can’t afford an ID" - Voter IDs are FREE. They call it an Election Identification Certificate (EIC).

https://www.dps.texas.gov/DriverLicense/electionID.htm

"You may apply for an EIC at no charge."

"Wouldn’t you voter registration card to the same?"

It doesn't have the bar code nor your photo, so no, a voter registration card will not do.

Emile Pope

Garbage. You have to pay for the documentation required to get the card.

Carlos Ponce

Once again, Emile is confused. "A poll or head tax is one imposed equally on all adults at the time of voting and is not affected by property ownership or income."

Do you understand what "at the time of voting" means?

Stuart Crouch

Yet once again, fooling no one but your other fools. Everyone with any sense at all knows what is going on here. It is a well-established mantra of the Right; "Less is more (for us)," when it comes to voting. There are simply too many easily identifiable tactics employed to suppress voter turnout.

Nice try fellas, but it remains a feeble attempt to masquerade your true intentions and larger agenda. "Republic" vs. "democracy" is always an entertaining one from the self-proclaimed 'patriots'. You actually lost me when you wrote "MSM", which is a red flag for conspiratorial nut-job. Regardless, a "republic as we may be, we also have something called a "Constitution", "Constitutional Amendments" & a "Bill of Rights", which you folks seem to only mention when it happens to agree with your argument; any other time, it is clearly being 'misinterpreted' by others.

My new mantra? "Voting; the more, the merrier, even by letter-carrier." That's it for now; y'all tell Cavuto 'good job' on dissing your boy.[ohmy]

Keith Gray

If I want to vote, I can vote. ID is a prerequisite to things in life... poor or not poor. There is voter fraud, and sending ballots with no assurance on who if filling out those ballots increases the chance of the dilution of my vote. If folks need help obtaining a voter ID, there are ways to mitigate that. I have the right to know that one citizen, one vote is protected.

Diane Turski

I hope Texans respond as the voters in Wisconsin did when their Republican court forced them to vote in person during the Covid 19 outbreak. They showed up in force to vote the bums OUT!! I am personally prepared to don a homemade hazmat suit and crawl over broken glass if necessary to vote these bums on the ballot OUT!!!

Carlos Ponce

The state of Texas will follow the laws an Constitution of the State of Texas and the United States.

domenico nuckols

They should have curbside voting. I’ve witnessed it before

Mike Zeller

Diane [thumbup] Whatever it takes.

Carlos Ponce

Dianne posts: "They showed up in force to vote the bums OUT!!"

Look at the Wisconsin Elections:

May 12 7th Congressional District Special Election: Republican Tom Tiffany beat Democrat Tricia Zunker.

April 7-State Supreme Court Jill Karafsky beat Independent Daniel Kelly. Daniel Kelly did not run as a Republican. Wisconsin State supreme court seats in Wisconsin are elected on a nonpartisan basis.

https://www.ballotpedia.org/Daniel_Kelly_(Wisconsin)

Ted Gillis

Yes Domenico, they did have curbside voting.

When I was an election judge (many moons ago) I took ballots out to a sick or handicapped person in their vehicle if they showed up at the polling place. I allowed them to vote that way.

I’m not sure how this works today, with then electronic machines. Maybe some current election judge can comment.

Oh and Carlos, we are all so glad that your doctor says you have a healthy heart. However, many of us here are convinced that there is definitely something wrong with your head!

Bailey Jones

When I was a judge - 2008-2012, I believe there was a smaller machine in the voting place that could be carried out to a car. I do remember the sitiation coming up in our training.

Carlos Ponce

Everyone that knows me knows I have a brilliant mind.[cool]

"took ballots out to a sick or handicapped person in their vehicle" Not possible today because there are no paper ballots but an electronic voting device connected to a computer in the polling room.

Jim Forsythe

Curbside voting is possible because it is the law, and also the right thing to do.

Texas has created laws requiring all polling places to be accessible to persons who are elderly or physically disabled. And Texas was the first state to require that all electronic voting systems purchased after September 1, 1999, provide voters who have disabilities a practical way to cast a secret ballot. If you need this option, be sure to follow these directions.

Voters may vote curbside.

If you are physically unable to enter the polling place, you may ask that an election officer bring a ballot to you at the entrance of the polling place or to your car at curbside. After you mark the ballot, give it to the election officer to put it in the ballot box, or hand it to a companion to deposit in the ballot box for you.

If you plan to go alone to vote curbside, it is wise to call ahead so election officials will expect you. Generally speaking, you may vote curbside during the early voting period (the 17th day before Election Day until the 4th day before Election Day) or on Election Day.

Texas has created laws requiring all polling places to be accessible to persons who are elderly or physically disabled. And Texas was the first state to require that all electronic voting systems purchased after September 1, 1999, provide voters who have disabilities a practical way to cast a secret ballot.

Carlos Ponce

Jim, I asked the election judges in 2016, 2018, and 2020 if paper ballots were available. They said no.

"polling places to be accessible to persons who are elderly or physically disabled" that means ADA compliant - entrance ramps, no physical barriers, etc.

There is a voting pad/machine that is wheelchair accessible. The rest you have to stand up to use.

Carlos Ponce

Jim, paper ballots are available to the elderly (65+), the handicapped by mail but not at the polling location.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, they were in violation of state law.

Go to the link below and go to the bottom and click on voters with disabilities.

Go to at the bottom Voters may vote curbside.

You will see what I post above.

https://www.votetexas.gov/voting/index.html#voters-with-disabilities

If you are going to be part of the next voting, poll worker, you need to ask questions to the ones in charge.

Joe Mancuso

You can also go to this site: https://gov.texas.gov/organization/disabilities/voting

"Provides for ballots to be brought to the curb, or polling place entrance, if the voter can not enter."

Texas Election Code, Section 64.009

"Sec. 64.009. VOTER UNABLE TO ENTER POLLING PLACE. (a) If a voter is physically unable to enter the polling place without personal assistance or likelihood of injuring the voter's health, on the voter's request, an election officer shall deliver a ballot to the voter at the polling place entrance or curb."

Carlos Ponce

Since the county provided mail in for handicapped they did not have it. The mail in for handicapped was their accommodation.

Joe Mancuso

No, Carlos, you're wrong. I just spoke with the Secretary of State legal section. Curbside voting (64.009) has been available since 1997. Each voting place must provide either a paper ballot or a voting device to a disabled person at curbside.

Your statement that "Since the county provided mail in for handicapped they did not have it. The mail in for handicapped was their accommodation." is incorrect. Either you were misinformed or the voting location was, indeed, not in compliance.

Joe Mancuso

It doesn't have to be a paper ballot. It can be a voting device like Bailey mentioned earlier. But they have to provide one or the other.

Carlos Ponce

Whatever. When I asked five judges for my wheelchair bound brother they said that's what mail in for handicapped was for.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, make sure to inform the five judges that they were wrong and could be sued for not complying with The Americans with Disabilities Act. This is why it was written into Texas law.

Now that you are aware of the law, you could be included in the case if it goes to court and if you were working the polls when this happens.

Carlos Ponce

Jim, we'll get a different election judge come November.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, make sure to inform the new person of the law, so they can plan how to be ready if some needs help to vote from the curb.

Dan Freeman

Actually a very stable genius.

Jim Forsythe

STABLE GENIUS was Mr. Ed!

The new STABLE genius, Trump and Carlos.

Carlos Ponce

I sense jealousy!

George Caros

Carlos the great ball washer

Carlos Ponce

Again, poor George Caros has to submit gibberish to try to remain in the loop. So sad.[sad]

domenico nuckols

The tallying Portion of the voting device is not connected a computer. When you enter your PIN number it loads the correct ballot. When the votes are counted the tallying device is removed and secured in a locked transfer box and escorted under guard to The criminal justice center to be counted on an air bridged computer. Never connected to the internet.

Carlos Ponce

The only internet connection is not in the tally but when you check in to prevent you from voting in another location. The tallying is not connected as you state.

Mike Zeller

The last Hitchcock City Election, I brought my elderly parents to City Hall to vote. An Election official came to my truck with an ipad with electronic ballot. They voted, no problem, and the election official was really helpful explaining to my parents how to work that contraption. I hope this is, par for the course, at all polling places.

Carlos Ponce

That's a city election, not to be confused withe primary runoffs or General election.

Joe Mancuso

Carlos, I think that you are wrong on this. I posted this above and will repost it here for you:

You can also go to this site: https://gov.texas.gov/organization/disabilities/voting

"Provides for ballots to be brought to the curb, or polling place entrance, if the voter can not enter."

Texas Election Code, Section 64.009

"Sec. 64.009. VOTER UNABLE TO ENTER POLLING PLACE. (a) If a voter is physically unable to enter the polling place without personal assistance or likelihood of injuring the voter's health, on the voter's request, an election officer shall deliver a ballot to the voter at the polling place entrance or curb."

Carlos Ponce

I asked five election judges if they had paper ballots. All said no.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos check on this, not with Galveston County, but with the state. The last time I had an issue, the county had a different interpretation than the state did. The state was right and corrected what was going on here.

Contact Information

Section Mailing Address:

Elections Division

Secretary of State

P.O. Box 12060

Austin, Texas 78711-2060

Phone Numbers

1.800.252.VOTE (8683)

512.463.5650

Carlos Ponce

Ted asked to check with an election judge. I checked with 5.

Jim Forsythe

Do yourself a favor and check with the state.

Ted Gillis

That wasn’t me Carlos

Carlos Ponce

Ted Gillis May 19, 2020 12:16pm

"Maybe some current election judge can comment."

You're right, it wasn't Ted Gillis, it was Ted Gillis.

Ted Gillis

I guess the real “Ted Gillis” did ask.

Just to clarify, I’m not sure if there was ever a state rule or if the code even allowed for an election judge to offer curbside service, it’s just something we did. The previous election judge before me did it, so I continued doing it once she retired and I was appointed. I even had a pole watcher assist me with it once.

Carlos Ponce

Was that person watching a telephone pole? They usually don't move.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, make sure to inform the five judges that they were wrong and could be sued for not complying with The Americans with Disabilities Act. This is why it was written into Texas law.

Now that you are aware of the law, you could be included in the case if it goes to court and if you were working the polls when this happens.

Jim Forsythe

Good news Carlos, Texas, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday that all voters can request an absentee ballot if they fear contracting the coronavirus by going to the polls in person.

Carlos Ponce

Better news, Jim. The State of Texas has countered that move made by Bill Clinton appointee, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery. They have appealed and based on law and the Constitution the State of Texas will win. It will be overturned.

Ted Gillis

Pole, poll. Thanking you mister former public school teacher.

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