The Harris County Clerk has been ordered to temporarily halt sending unsolicited mail-in ballot applications to more than 2 million registered voters.
The Texas Supreme Court handed down the order Wednesday, September 2, after state Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to derail County Clerk Chris Hollins' plan.
Paxton 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.
"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 Hollins a Monday deadline 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."
Those who have not registered to vote have until October 5 to do so.
For more on this story, including video, visit our news partner ABC13.