Archive for April 17th, 2020

GOP voters want mail ballots. They want to vote and not get the COVID-19 and risk dying. Nothing wrong with that.

Voting-by-mail and mail ballots is not a Democratic Party thing. It is a common sense and safety thing during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Let me give you some background. Mont Belvieu and Barber Hill ISD are in Chambers County, right next to the eastern border of Harris County.  They are Baytown’s neighbors. Mont Belvieu is 90% White. Barbers Hill ISD has a 70% White student population. Chambers County went 80% for Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

The following story was the co-lead front page story in yesterday’s Baytown Sun. The other co-lead story was the judicial ruling from Austin on mail ballots.

The Baytown Sun is not the Texas Observer.

Here is the entire story from the Baytown Sun:

A state representative who asked the state to investigate the City of Mont Belvieu and Barbers Hill ISD over encouraging people to use mail-in ballots instead of in-person voting for the May 2 election  says Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton backs him up.  

Barbers Hill and the City of Mont Belvieu leaders strongly disagree and vowed to proceed with elections and encouraging voters who do not want to vote in person because of the coronavirus to apply for and use mail-in ballots.

“We will be upholding democracy on May 2 in a joint election with Barbers Hill ISD giving all eligible voters the right for their voices to be heard,” said Mont Belvieu City Manager Nathan Watkins.

Meanwhile, State Judge Tim Sulak, with the 353rd District Court in Travis County, said Wednesday he is going to ease restrictions on mail-in voting by issuing a temporary injunction that allows people afraid of getting the virus to use mail-in balloting for the July runoff elections. Paxton’s office is expected to appeal the judge’s ruling. 

District 128 Rep. Briscoe Cain sent a letter to Paxton’s office requesting a criminal investigation to see if either the district, the city, or both violated Texas Election Code provisions. Cain claims at least three provisions of the code could lead to prosecution for causing people to unlawfully apply for a ballot.  

Cain has pointed to an opinion Paxton released Wednesday in response to State Rep. Stephanie Klick’s request for guidance on whether Texans can say they are disabled out of fear of contracting COVID-19 and be able to use a mail-in ballot. 

“Mail ballots based on disability are specifically reserved for those who are physically ill and cannot vote in-person as a result,” Paxton said. “Fear of contracting COVID-19 does not amount to a sickness or physical condition as required by the Legislature. The integrity of our democratic election process must be maintained, and law established by our Legislature must be followed consistently.”  

Cain said Paxton’s letter vindicates him as well as District 23 State Rep. Mayes Middleton, who has also expressed concerns over Mont Belvieu and Barbers Hill using mail-in ballots May 2 rather than moving the election to November. 

“The AG’s letter clearly demonstrates the position that Rep. Middleton and I have repeatedly advanced,” Cain said. “The way these local government officials chose to put the integrity of their elections at risk is shameful.”

As far as the AG opinion, Watkins said nothing has changed on his end.

“The City of Mont Belvieu is in receipt of the Attorney General’s advisory opinion regarding voting by mail,” Watkins said. “The opinion in no way changes how the city approaches the upcoming election.”

Barbers Hill ISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Poole was equally as adamant about the May 2 election.

“The most basic tenet of the Republican Party is local control, and it is shameful a local Republican rep that doesn’t represent a single one of our taxpayers is seeking to undermine local control,” Poole said. “We have two exceptional entities governed by two outstanding boards choosing to legally hold locally-needed essential elections. Barbers Hill ISD will continue to focus on the safety of our students while keeping our tax rate one of the lowest in the Houston area.”

Although on March 18, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation allowing local officials to move their elections from May to Nov. 3 by suspending Texas Election Code provisions, Poole has stated part of the decision was made to continue with the May 2 election was in relation to a $277.5 bond the district called for in January. He has pointed to the district growth, saying they cannot wait to turn dirt on necessary improvements included in the bond. There are also two school board positions up for election. Mont Belvieu has a mayoral election between incumbent Nick Dixon and challenger Kevin Yeager. Two council positions are also up. 

Cain said he is sympathetic to both the district’s and city’s concerns.

“But encouraging people to vote this way is illegal, and they could open up the person illegally applying for it for prosecution,” Cain said. “I do not think a district attorney or a court would hold someone accountable for requesting a ballot based on disability when government officials are telling them to do it. But people should be held accountable for telling someone to do something illegal. Voters trusted them that what they were telling them was correct.” 

Stephen Chang, Texas Secretary of State spokesman, said his office had advised municipalities to move their elections. In a mass email sent by Chang, it references Abbott’s Executive Order GA 14 and states, “If you don’t move your May 2nd election, you are subjecting voters to health risks and potential criminal violations. Failure to postpone your election will put your election at severe risk for an election contest.”

Chang further stated while Abbott cannot unilaterally postpone municipal elections, he can authorize applicable elections entities such as municipalities to move their elections. 

Some cities say they are also going ahead with the May 2 election.

Port Lavaca officials said they are planning to hold its election May 2. The city’s mayor, Jack Whitlow, said if they move to November, there would be more polling locations since it would include both the city and county elections. He said it would be difficult to hire election workers to handle all of the polling locations.

It just makes sense.  It is not a Democratic thing versus a Republican thing.  It is a I don’t want to get sick thing.  Democrats and Republicans both see that voting-by-mail is civics social distancing.  It’s not a political thing.  It is a public health thing.

350 or so H-Town area individuals and businesses want the Harris County Judge and H-Town Mayor to ease the stay-at-home restrictions.  Some folks want to see the list of 350. I guess they want to know who else is waving the white flag.

I wonder how many of the 350 are public health or medical experts?

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