Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Texas Republican Party Chair Allen West, and two state Senators — Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) and Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) — have joined a lawsuit against Governor Greg Abbott and Secretary of State Ruth Hughs over the extension of the early voting period.
State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) is listed as a relator on the lawsuit, but stated on social media that she never agreed to join the lawsuit and requested that her name be removed.
Abbott, by executive order, moved the beginning of the early voting period up a week to begin on October 13. According to the governor, he did so “to ensure that elections proceed efficiently and safely when Texans go to the polls to cast a vote in person during early voting or on election day [so that] election officials can implement appropriate social distancing and safe hygiene practices.”
In doing this, Abbott was responding to a request from Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, who is embroiled in another voting-related lawsuit pertaining to mail-in-ballot applications.
The Texas Election Code stipulates that early, in-person voting may not commence until the 17th day before the election. The legal brief points to this provision, and appeals to the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) for a writ of mandamus prohibiting the early voting period extension.
Texas allows registered voters to cast their ballots in-person before Election Day. Additionally, qualified mail-in voters can drop off their marked mail ballots to a certified clerk’s office on Election Day. Abbott, in his order, extended that capability to the entire early voting period, as well.
The lawsuit seeks a SCOTX order halting each of those provisions levied by Abbott.
Under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975 (TDA), the legislature vested authority in the governor to suspend certain provisions of the state code he deems necessary to respond to the disaster. This provision has been used often by Abbott.
However, Article I, Sec. 28 of the Texas Constitution states, “No power of suspending laws in this State shall be exercised except by the Legislature.”
There is a raging debate over whether the TDA is constitutional to begin with, but no ruling has been made in the courts.
The closest to a ruling that has come was SCOTX’s explicit statement in the case concerning Dallas Salon a la Mode owner and current candidate for Senate District 30, Shelley Luther, that the governor’s emergency powers must be examined and be reaffirmed in some way other than by the governor himself.
Summarily, the brief reads “In this Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Relators are challenging the process of the election, i.e., the Respondents authority to implement and enforce changes to the Texas Election Code that have not been made by the Texas Legislature.”
SCOTX will now review the request and either move forward with consideration of the case or reject it.
The election is 41 days away and the early voting period is either 20 or 26 days away, depending on the outcome of this case.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.