The Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) issued a blow to a Republican coalition’s challenge to Governor Greg Abbott’s unilateral expansion of early voting.
The suit was notable for the various state leaders that signed on, most notably Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Texas GOP Chairman Allen West, and state Sens. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) and Charles Perry (R-Lubbock).
Earlier this year, Abbott issued an executive order moving forward the beginning of early voting in Texas by a week, citing his authority to suspend statute derived from the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.
Relators assert the constitutionality of that law must be examined, and furthermore that the Texas Constitution allots the power to suspend laws only to the legislature.
SCOTX’s ruling, authored by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, criticized the relator’s tardiness in their challenge. “Relators delayed in challenging the Governor’s July 27 proclamation for more than ten weeks after it was issued,” the opinion reads.
“Those arguments affect not only the impending election process but also implicate the Governor’s authority under the Act for the many other actions he has taken over the past six months. Relators’ delay precludes the consideration their claims require.”
Furthermore, the court drew a hard line since “the election is already underway” as mailed ballots have already been accepted by the Harris County clerk. “To disrupt the long-planned election procedures as relators would have us do would threaten voter confusion.”
Justice John Devine was the lone dissenter, who called the court’s decision “a disservice to the citizens of Texas” in his opinion. Pointing to previous examples, Devine states the court has “often acted even ‘after statutory deadlines to protect the electoral process.’”
He concluded, “Because the Secretary continues to act pursuant to a potentially unconstitutional proclamation, her conduct is subject to this Court’s authority to mandamus public officials who engage in abuses of discretion.”
Early voting begins on October 13.
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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.