Texas Democrats are continuing to legally pursue allowing mail-in voting for most Texans under 65, who are currently precluded from doing so.

Texas law allows mail-in voting for people who are 65 or older, disabled, in jail but not yet convicted, or will be out of their home county during the election period.

Two trial judges have ruled that lack of immunity to COVID-19 is grounds for voting absentee by mail rather than risking catching or spreading the virus by voting in person.

But both of the trial judges were overturned or otherwise eventually blocked by appellate courts.

So Texas Democrats and other supporting groups are pursuing other efforts to allow mail-in voting by people under 65, based on age discrimination.

On Monday, Aug. 31 Chad Dunn, the lawyer for the Texas Democrats, appeared before a three-judge panel of the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that Texas voting law discriminates against most people under 65.

The argument to the 5th Circuit panel is that the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to lower the voting age to 18, ratified in 1971 by the necessary 38 states – including Texas’ – also outlaws discrimination by age.

The amendment says “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.”

Texas law allows voting by mail only by registered voters who are disabled, will be gone during the election period, are in jail but not convicted, or are 65.

That 65-year-old limitation is the legal sticking point, because that rather obviously amounts to discrimination by age.

“I am confident that we will ultimately ensure that everybody, regardless of age, has the right to vote by mail,” Dunn, the Texas Democrats’ attorney, told the Austin American-Statesman.

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, backed by Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republican officials, has steadfastly defended against the age discrimination charge, as well as the argument that fear of COVID-19 is grounds for voting by mail.

The 5th Circuit panel said it will rule soon. Their decision is almost certain to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Streamline Motor Voter … On another voting rights front, a federal judge has ordered simplifying registering to vote while getting or renewing a driver’s license.

The 1993 National Voter Registration Act’s “motor voter” provision requires states to allow people to register to vote while they renew or update their driver’s license.

However, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website requires online driver’s license renewal customers wishing to register to vote to go to another website, download and fill out a form, print it, and mail it to the county voter registrar. 

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Friday that the DPS must streamline its website to allow online customers to register to vote at the same time they renew their driver’s licenses.

Judge Garcia ordered that the change be operational by Sept. 23, since the DPS has had ample opportunity to upgrade because of previous orders he had issued over the past two years. 

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Cornyn: “The Democrats Are Coming.” … National Democrats haven’t targeted Texas for decades. The last Democratic presidential nominee to carry the state was Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Beginning in 1980, a Texan named  Bush was on six of the seven presidential tickets through 2004. And national Democrats didn’t compete much here.

But in 2020, the state’s Republican senior Sen. John Cornyn, who’s up for re-election this year, is sounding the alarm. 

In a pre-primetime warm-up video to the Republican National Convention Thursday, before President Donald Trump’s speech to accept his nomination for a second term, Cornyn warned the Democratic threat is serious.

“Texas Republicans face our greatest election challenge in the last five decades,” Cornyn said, in his segment of a series of video talks by GOP candidates for Senate and House seats.

Recent polls show Cornyn, seeking a fourth six-year term, is running only about 6 points ahead of Democratic challenger MJ Hegar

 And Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice-President Joe Biden, is running dead even.

“Joe Biden sees Texas’s 38 electoral votes as the prize that will put him over the top,” Cornyn said. “(Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi called Texas Ground Zero for 2020 and is investing heavily to defeat Republican House members in Texas to solidify her speakership.”

Cornyn indicated that the national Democrats are buoyed for 2020 by Democrat Beto O’Rourke falling just 2.6 percent short in his 2018 challenge to Texas’s other Republican senator, Ted Cruz. 

“The national Democrats who came to Texas during Betomania?” Cornyn said. “Well, they never left.”

Contact Dave McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com 

Mobile 512-751-3540.

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