Alice Embree :
ANALYSIS | Vote by mail in Texas: Do it!

In the courts, the issue continues to be a roller
coaster ride.

The author, with Vote by Mail application.

By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | June 5, 2020

AUSTIN — In this ongoing pandemic and national uprising over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Black Lives Matter. And democracy matters. It matters that Rep. Steven King was defeated in Iowa and it matters that Ella Jones was elected as the first woman and first African American mayor of Ferguson, Missouri.

I want you to vote. And I want you to vote by mail if you can. Do it for the poll workers. Do it for your own safety. Do it because Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton doesn’t want you to do it. Do it because the entire Republican Party hates the idea.

Just do it. And do it soon.

In Texas you need to mail in an application. Get it done if you want to vote in the Texas primary runoff July 14. I suggest you take a photo of yourself wearing a mask and holding your stamped envelope. Post the photo on social media. That will doubly disturb our disturbed president. And it might give our indicted Texas Attorney General heartburn as well.

You need an advanced engineering degree to navigate the website.

I’m going to tell you how to get an application and find the right address. You’ll also need a stamp. The Texas Secretary of State’s office apparently requires an advanced engineering degree to navigate its website to the right forms and addresses. Here is a shortcut provided by my friends at the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA).

STEP OUT OF LINE FOR DEMOCRACY. It is becoming more apparent every day how critical it is that every American, every Texan, exercise their CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO VOTE. Along with our constitutional rights and freedoms, comes the responsibility to do the right thing. It is imperative that every citizen participates in our democracy if we want it to survive these tumultuous times.

APPLY TODAY to VOTE BY MAIL. While the Texas Supreme Court has said that lack of immunity to Covid 19 is not considered a disability, their decision was qualified to say that every individual should take their personal health history as well as the perceived nature and level of risk into account when determining whether or not to apply to Vote by Mail.


  • Download and print application here.
  • Request application be mailed to you here. Fill it out, check the box “Annual Application,” and sign it the same way you will sign your ballot.
  • Find the address of your County Electoral Clerk here. The addresses are listed in alphabetical order by county.
  • Get a STAMP and MAIL TODAY.

There is an adage about all politics being local. All elections are as well. There are 254 Texas counties. Each of them presides over elections. Harris County’s November ballot will have 100 races on it and it will take voters several minutes on a touch screen to vote. You can no longer vote straight party even if you want to.

At the polls, workers will be trying to manage social distancing.

At the polls, workers will be trying to manage social distancing, wipe down touch screens, and more. That’s why TARA is saying “Step Out of Line for Democracy.” You can find step-by-step instructions on applying to vote by mail on the TARA Austin Facebook site.

Five states in the nation mail ballots to every voter with no application required. Voters can return their ballot postage free. They can check to see if their ballot was received. No such luck in Texas. You have to mail an application to get a ballot sent to you. You have to have a computer to request one and a printer to print one out. You have to have a stamp.

When you get your long ballot in Texas in November, you will probably need two stamps in order to mail it in. (Dallas County apparently provides a postage paid return envelope.) Texas has four criteria for applying to vote by mail: age of 65 or over, in jail and eligible to vote, out of the county at the time of the election, or disabled.

Many legal challenges are taking place in Texas, all aimed at expanding eligibility for Texans to vote by mail. An earlier Rag Blog article reported on the ruling of Texas District Court Judge Tim Sulak.

These lawsuits have kept our indicted Texas Attorney General busy with defense, requests for stays, and appeals. The Progress Texas website has a timeline.

Texas Voting Schedule 2020

Federal courts, as well as state courts, are seeing action. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) joined a Texas Democratic Party’s federal lawsuit, arguing that the absentee voting restriction is unconstitutional and discriminates on the basis of race. Latinos in Texas, as well as across the country, skew younger demographically and therefore have an age disadvantage for voting by mail.

In response to this federal lawsuit, District Judge Fred Biery granted a preliminary injunction that allows all registered voters to apply to vote by mail during the coronavirus pandemic after finding the state’s existing election rules violate the Equal Protection Clause. Judge Biery’s finding makes for great reading as he draws on the words in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

Two hundred forty years on, Americans now seek Life without fear of pandemic, Liberty to choose their leaders in an environment free of disease and the pursuit of Happiness without undue restrictions.

More on this federal lawsuit can be found at the Texas Tribune.

On June 4, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals extended an order to block the lower court ruling of Judge Biery. This will probably go to the U.S. Supreme Court now.

On May 11, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA) joined as a plaintiff in a major lawsuit with Voto Latino and the NAACP. There are four pillars of that lawsuit: 1) free or government-paid postage; 2) signature laws must protect voters; 3) all ballots postmarked on or before Election Day must count; 4) allow community organizations to collect and deliver ballots. State affiliates of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) have joined in similar lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts.

This lawsuit seeks to protect against attempts to criminalize community assistance.

In part, this lawsuit seeks to protect against Texas legislative attempts to criminalize community assistance, including “Souls to the Polls,” a common practice for African American churches that help elderly and disabled congregants get to the polls. In 2019, SB 9 was narrowly defeated in Texas. The measure would have criminalized anyone who drove three voters, to whom they are not related, to the polls at the same time.

The legal battles continue to be a roller coaster ride. We can savor the favorable rulings, but we need to remember that only organizing will win the fight against voter suppression in its many forms. The Travis County Elections Clerk, Dana DeBeauvoir, says that the normal count for Vote by Mail requests is 1,200. So far, Travis County has received 20,000. Make your request for an application now if you haven’t.

In the midst the national insurgency prompted by the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, it is important to listen to his brother’s advice. He went to the site of the murder and he spoke emotionally to the nation. Part of his message was to vote. George Floyd will not be able to vote. Make sure you do. Make sure you do it safely.

[Alice Embree is an Austin writer and activist who serves on the board of directors of the New Journalism Project, is associate editor of The Rag Blog, and was a founder of The Rag, Austin’s legendary underground paper, in 1966. Embree, a veteran of the women’s movement and a contributor to the 1970 anthology, Sisterhood is Powerful, is active with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in Austin.]

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