|RICHMOND (September 28, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring today joined a group of 17 state Attorneys General to defend a Texas county clerk’s decision to send mail-in voting applications to registered voters ahead of the November election. The State of Texas is suing to block the county clerk from mailing the applications, claiming that he does not have the authority to make such a decision and that the mailers will confuse ineligible voters into voting by mail. In an amicus brief filed in Texas v. Hollins in the Texas Supreme Court, the coalition argues that local election officials require the ability to tailor their election rules to protect voter participation and the health and safety of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The brief also argues that there is no evidence that voting by mail—let alone sending mail-in voting applications to registered voters—results in widespread voter fraud.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created numerous challenges, including finding different and creative ways to make sure that people can vote safely and securely without putting their well-being at risk,” said Attorney General Herring. “Local voting officials know their community’s needs best and must have the ability to create voting procedures that adapt to those needs while still encouraging voter participation and protection. Texas’ claims that voting by mail, or even just sending mail-in voting applications, would result in widespread voter fraud are completely unsubstantiated. I will continue to stand with my colleagues in fighting to protect Americans’ right and ability to vote in the most important election of our lifetimes.”
Election experts project that voter turnout in the general election this November could be the highest in over a century. At the same time, however, according to one study, 49 percent of U.S. registered voters expect to face difficulties casting a ballot due to the coronavirus outbreak. As a result, states across the country have modified their election procedures to protect both voter participation and the health of voters and election workers.
On August 25, 2020, Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, stated that his office would mail every registered voter in the county an application to vote by mail in the November election. The mailer would clearly outline the categories of voters who are eligible to vote by mail. The State of Texas filed for a temporary injunction to block this vote-by-mail outreach, claiming that Hollins did not have the authority to make such a decision and that it would confuse recipients into committing voter fraud since only certain voters are eligible to vote by mail. The trial court denied Texas’s motion for a temporary injunction, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The State has appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
In the amicus brief, the coalition supports the Harris County Clerk’s plan to send vote-by-mail applications to registered voters because:
- Local election officials have a responsibility to protect voter participation and voter safety: The Supreme Court has recognized that states have both a major role to play in election administration and a primary responsibility to protect the health and safety of their residents. The nuts and bolts of most election administration, however, remain local. Because of COVID-19, states and local election officials like Hollins require flexibility to preserve their residents’ access to voting while protecting the health and safety of their communities. Hollins’s plan to mail ballot applications to registered voters is consistent with his duties under Texas law and similar policies adopted by state and local election administrators across the United States.
- No evidence exists that sending vote-by-mail applications to voters results in widespread fraud: Since 2000, over 250 million people in all 50 states have voted using mail-in ballots, yet officials at the state and federal level have consistently found no evidence of widespread fraud. There is also no evidence of widespread fraud where states and local election officials mail ballot applications, as is the case here in Hollins’s plan. Further, the mailer outlines the categories of voters who are eligible to vote by mail, clarifying in bold, red lettering that fear of contracting COVID-19 by itself is not enough to qualify to vote by mail in Texas.
Attorney General Herring has made it a top priority, particularly over the past few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect voting rights and ensure that every Virginian can vote safely and securely without putting their well-being or the well-being of their families and loved ones at risk. He has reached two agreements to promote safe voting by mail for both the June 23rd primaries and the November 3rd general election by allowing for the acceptance of absentee ballots without a witness signature “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot. He also reached an agreement that provides Virginians with disabilities with different options, including using screen reader technology, to vote privately and independently, while safely at home. Attorney General Herring also blocked Trump’s illegal changes to the USPS, when a federal judge granted his motion for preliminary injunction, explicitly saying in the order that “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.” Additionally, last week, Attorney General Herring issued an advisory opinion outlining protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation in response to “reports of activity near polling places that led some voters to fear for their safety while waiting to cast their vote, or led them to believe that they would be harmed for supporting a particular candidate.”
Joining Attorney General Herring in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.