Harris County will not have to throw out potentially thousands of ballots from people 65 and older who received unsolicited mail-in voting applications, after the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition from a conservative activist and others on Friday.
Activist Steven Hotze, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Houston ISD trustee candidate Gerry Munroe and a group of Harris County voters filed the petition earlier this month in an effort to keep Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria from sending more applications before the November election.
Court documents show scans of applications the voters allegedly received in recent months without requesting them.
The petition also asked the court to order Longoria’s office not to count any votes from people who received ballot applications without requesting one.
“If the Legislature had wanted to require the clerk to send the application to vote early to all registered voters sixty-five or older, they could have done so,” the petitioners wrote. “Additionally, if they wanted the clerk to have this option, they could have provided it in the language of the statute. Instead, the Legislature limited the mandate to provide the application only to those who request it.”
In a brief filed Monday, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said the group lacked standing to sue because they failed to show any harm from the mailings, and that throwing out the ballots would disenfranchise thousands of elderly voters. The brief also argued the petitioners improperly skipped the appeals process by heading straight to the Supreme Court.
The high court denied the petition without issuing an opinion. Justice John Phillip Devine dissented.
“We’re very happy with the result,” read a statement from Menefee. “This lawsuit was the latest attempt by partisan activists seeking to use the Courts to disenfranchise Texans. The Supreme Court of Texas has correctly and swiftly rejected these efforts.”
The petitioners’ attorney, Jared Woodfill, said he planned to refile the case in the either the First or 14th Court of Appeals in Houston.
Woodfill would not confirm if he would again ask for potential ballots to be thrown out, but said at the very least he wanted the people who received unsolicited applications to be informed.
“There’s something wrong with an elections administrator who decides that she is just going to take the law into her hand, and create the law as she wishes it to be, not as it is,” Woodfill said. “And that’s what we have in Isabel Longoria.”
Harris County sent out 467,971 ballot applications to voters 65 and older in August, and plans to send out 76,736 ballots starting next week, according to Longoria’s office.
In a statement, Longoria noted that when Senate Bill 1 goes into effect on Dec. 2, she will be unable to send more applications without a request. SB 1 is a Texas election law that places new restrictions on voting and bans things like drive-thru and 24-hour voting. The law also bans sending unsolicited vote-by-mail applications.
Longoria has joined several people and groups in a lawsuit against the stateattempting to block SB 1 from going into effect.
“Voting by mail is not simply another method to vote – for many, it’s their only option to vote,” Longoria said. “SB1 effectively makes it impossible to fulfill my sworn duty as Elections Administrator moving forward which is why I have joined a lawsuit challenging the SB1 provision regarding mail-in ballot applications.”
The high court previously ruled in October that Harris County could not mail out ballot applications to every single voter. Texas sued to block then-County Clerk Chris Hollins from mailing out the applications to everyone, which he argued was an effort to increase voter participation during the pandemic.
While lower courts sided with Hollins, the Supreme Court justices ultimately agreed with Texas’ argument that it exceeded Hollins’ legal authority.
About a month later, a federal judge in Houston rejected an attempt by Hotze and others to have 127,000 ballots cast by drive-thru voters thrown out.
People of color make up 95% of Texas’ population growth, and cities and suburbs are booming, 2020 census shows
Setting the stage for what is expected to be a bruising battle over political representation, the results of the 2020 census released Thursday showed that Texas’ explosive growth over the past decade was again powered by people of color.
And it is the state’s cities and suburbs that are booming, with Texas home to three of the country’s 10 largest cities and four of the fastest-growing.
Texas gained the most residents of any state since 2010, and its Hispanic population is now nearly as large as the non-Hispanic white population, with just half a percentage point separating them. Texas gained nearly 11 Hispanic residents for every additional white resident since 2010.
Texans of color accounted for 95% of the state’s population growth. The 2020 census puts the state’s population at 29,145,505 — a 16% jump from 25.1 million in 2010. Hispanic Texans were responsible for half of that increase.
Non-Hispanic white Texans now make up just 39.8% of the state’s population — down from 45% in 2010. Meanwhile, the share of Hispanic Texans has grown to 39.3%.
The Hispanic population’s approach to becoming Texas’ largest demographic group marks a significant milestone ahead of this year’s redistricting, during which state lawmakers will draw new political maps divvying up seats in Congress and the state House and Senate in what will no doubt be an intense and protracted fight over political control of the state for the next decade.
Texas Republicans hold every lever of power to try to lock in or even expand their majorities at the state Capitol and in Congress. But they will be working to redraw the state’s political maps while confronting the demographic reality that the state is growing in ways that put the party’s stranglehold in question.
Hispanic leaders will surely point to the growth to lobby for increased political control and representation, particularly as lawmakers consider how to draw the two additional congressional seats — the most gained by any state — Texas earned because of its fast growth.
https://1afe63a5ac3429761857786b5d0acfb2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlThe sluggish growth among white Texans could also complicate Republican efforts to cement their power, which relies on a political base much more likely to be white and rural.
The state’s Hispanic, Black and Asian populations all significantly outgrew the white population since 2010. The white population growth — an increase of just 187,252 — was swamped by the total growth among Asian Texans, who make up a tiny share of the total population but have seen their numbers grow at the fastest pace in the state. The state’s Asian population grew by 613,092 since 2010.
The Hispanic population saw the biggest growth, with nearly 2 million additional Hispanic people now calling Texas home.
The state’s growth has been concentrated in diverse urban centers that serve as Democratic strongholds and suburban communities, several of which have either already turned blue or are trending in that direction. Since 2010, 44% of the state’s growth took place in its five largest counties — Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis. All 10 of the state’s fastest-growing counties in the last decade were suburban.