May 7, 2020
Your Weekly News from the Collin County Democratic Party
Of Mail Ballots and an Attorney General
an Op-Ed by Woot Lervisit
I applied in April for a mail-in ballot because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That same week and again last Friday, Attorney General Ken Paxton publicly released deceptive letters about COVID-19 mail-in ballots threatening criminal charges of election fraud. In his letters, Mr. Paxton ignored the pertinent legal issue of physical immunity from COVID-19. Instead, Mr. Paxton created and attacked a strawman – the emotional fear of COVID-19.

Regrettably, Mr. Paxton’s letters has had a suppressing effect. Many voters are not applying for mail-in ballots, and many organizations are not advising voters to apply for mail-in ballots because of Mr. Paxton’s threats to prosecute.

The Texas Democratic Party has filed lawsuits to clarify the issue of COVID-19 mail-in ballots, and Texas Judge Tim Sulak determined that “any voters without established immunity meet the plain language definition of disability thereby entitling them to a mailed ballot under Tex. Elec. Code §82.002.”

Judge Sulak also rebuked Mr. Paxton and his fear-mongering letter. The judge ordered Mr. Paxton and his client the State of Texas from prohibiting voters from applying for mail-in ballots based on COVID-19 disability and from threatening to prosecute to voters for applying.

I do not know how Mr. Paxton’s emotional fears of Texas voters affect his understanding of plain English; he still might snake around the statute and file criminal charges against everyone.

But Mr. Paxton’s attacks against our elections will not deter me. I plan to vote by mail, and I will encourage other voters to apply for COVID-19 mail-in ballots.

Sue me.

[Ed. Note: This op-ed is based on a letter to the editor written by the author and published in the Dallas Morning News on April 26, 2020. As of May 7, 2020, the author has not been prosecuted.

Information about the Texas Democratic Party lawsuit can be found here . Information about how to vote by mail can be found below.]

Voting by Mail and the Pandemic
by Mike Rawlins, County Chair
There’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation going around about voters under the age of 65 being able to vote by mail because of the pandemic. This is a relatively fast moving and changing situation. We’ll try to clarify the current status for you as of today, knowing that by the time this is published it may have changed yet again.

We do want to first make it clear that because the Texas Democratic Party is pursuing legal action in this matter, the CCDP is not advising otherwise ineligible voters to apply to vote by mail. On the other hand we’re not discouraging them either. Likewise we do not here presume to offer legal advice; we are providing our understanding of the current facts of the matter.

As a starting point, any Texas voter aged 65 or over or who claims a disability may apply annually to vote by mail for all elections that year. When applying the applicant simply checks a box indicating they have a disability. They are not required to specify the nature of the disability, nor are they required to present a physician’s statement or other evidence of a disability. Election Administrators are required to approve such applications without question. Here’s the specific provision:

“Sec. 82.002. DISABILITY. (a) A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter's health.”

Most violations of Texas Election Code are considered Class A misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, or both jail time and a fine. If prosecuted, fraudulently submitting an application for a mail-in ballot might be handled this way. However, no one we talked with knew of a single case where an application had even been investigated to see if the disability was genuine, let alone the applicant being prosecuted. And if there was an investigation it would not be carried out by the Elections Administrator, it would be carried out by the Texas Attorney General’s office. There aren’t resources for the state to seek wholesale prosecutions, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for the AG to selectively prosecute a few individuals or organizations to make examples of them.

After the pandemic became serious late in the spring, guidance from the Texas Secretary of State’s Election Division regarding the ability to obtain a ballot by mail due to the pandemic was unclear to many voters. The Texas Democratic Party joined with other plaintiffs to bring suit in state District Court in Travis County to force acceptance of applications for ballot by mail based on a declaration of disability due to concerns over being infected with the virus while voting. Judge Tim Sulak of the 201st District Court issued a Temporary Injunction on April 17 effectively ordering Election Administrators across the state to accept such applications. His order set a follow-up conference date for July 27, after the July 14 Primary Runoff.

Indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued various statements and opinions disagreeing with the ruling, but they do not hold the force of law. The District Court ruling may only be overturned by a higher court, and as expected the state has appealed. The state’s brief is due in the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin by May 29. The Plaintiff’s typically would be allowed up to thirty days to file their response, pushing things out to the end of June. Therefore the earliest that the Appeals Court would be likely to issue a ruling is early July, and that’s probably too late to have any impact on the runoff. The next step would be the Texas Supreme Court, where the state will probably prevail due to that court being run by Republicans. But that would almost certainly be after the runoff.

Voters should also be aware that the TDP is also pursuing this matter in federal court. A preliminary hearing is set for Federal Court in San Antonio May 15. Hunches are that the most that might come out of that hearing is an order that the Texas Attorney General stop threatening voters with criminal prosecution if they claim disability due to lack of immunity to COVID-19. We’re advised that the federal court will probably wait until the issue is settled in state courts before considering it in detail. Our best guess is that this would be after the runoff but before the November 3 general election.

All of that said, as of the time this is being written Judge Sulak’s order stands, and it is legal to apply for a ballot by mail claiming a disability due to lack of immunity to COVID-19. Though unlikely, that could change just about any time. We plan to keep you informed as things progress.

Voters also need to be aware that the CCDP is actively working with the Collin County Elections Department to make polling places as safe as they can be for those who choose to vote in person.

Finally, we strongly encourage any voters aged 65 or over or with permanent medical disabilities to apply to vote by mail now if they have not already done so.
Democrats with Disabilities and Seniors over 65
Apply to Vote by Mail
Many of you are wondering what the voting process will be for the Runoff (July 14) and the General Election (November 3). There is a strong push by many groups and elected officials to allow everyone to Vote By Mail (VBM). This has not been decided in Texas and will likely continue to work its way through the courts. 
 
What we all can do now is get every Democrat who is 65 and over to apply to vote by mail – even if they are able to vote in person. 
 
Also, we should encourage everyone with a disability to apply to vote by mail. If you have any questions, the Primary Administration Team is checking voice mails from the Party Office - 469-609-0539 and will respond to emails sent to this email .

Here is an easy link to download and print a personalized VBM application .

Or you can go to this link to print an initially blank application.

If you are not able to download and print an application, go to   this link   so an application with your information can be mailed to you. That form works even if you are not a senior.
Rachel Bitecofer Zoom Meeting
Hosted by Vote For Every Democrat
In 2018, one elections forecaster had a more accurate predictive model than anyone else: Rachel Bitecofer. She has made news nationwide in the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate, Politico and many other publications, and is now a fixture on television political news.

Join us this Thursday, May 7, 6:30pm on a special ZOOM meeting with Rachel. She will talk about flipping the Texas House and share her insights on Democrats' chances in Texas and the North Texas region.

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED. Sign up at http://www.ZoomWithEveryDemocrat.com and you will be emailed the log-in and call-in information.

This should be an inspiring and highly informative meeting!
CCDP Office Closed until Further Notice
The Collin County Democratic Party offices will be closed to the general public indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, please do not hesitate to contact us at 972-578-1483 or through collindemocrats.org . We look forward to hearing from you.
CCDWD Monthly Meeting Via Zoom Tele/Video Conference 5/18/2020
You don't have to live in Collin County or have a disability to participate. Allies and advocates are welcome and much appreciated!

When: Monday, May 18, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Where: Zoom. RSVP for link.
Contact: disabilitydemocrats@gmail.com or 307-314-ABLE (2253)
Your Donations Matter – Now More Than Ever!
During these difficult times there are those who need our help more than ever. A few local organizations you can support who do this work include:
Minnie’s Food Pantry
Donate money by texting MINNIES to 41444

Drive & Drop items
Where: 661 18 th St., Plano TX 75074
When: Monday, Wednesday - Saturday
Time: 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Canned Meat
  • Spaghetti
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Bagged Beans
  • Jelly
Allen Community Outreach

Drive & Drop items
Where: 801 E. Main Street in Allen
  • Canned Soups- Chicken Noodle, Tomato, Alphabet
  • Canned Pastas- Ravioli, SpaghettiOs, Lasagna
  • Canned Meats- Chicken, Tuna; Jellies- Grape, Strawberry
  • Fruit Cups/ Snack Packs
  • Fast Food Restaurant Gift Cards
  • Paper Towels/ Toilet Tissue
  • Toothbrushes/ Toothpaste
  • Kids Soaps and Shampoos
  • Hand Sanitizer/ Wipes
Community Lifeline Center

Drive & Drop items
Where: 1601 N Waddill St #102, McKinney

  • Cereal boxes of any size; spaghetti sauce 24 oz bottle or can
  • Pears, Peaches, Mixed Fruit, and Applesauce, 15 oz can
  • Ravioli, 15 oz. can
  • Oatmeal cylinder
  • Mac & Cheese 7.5 oz box
  • Cornbread mix
  • Rice 1 lb bag