Stories about Texas

Texas Supreme Court rules that a voter’s lack of immunity does not qualify as a disability for absentee voting purposes

On May 27, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19 does not qualify as a disability under the state’s election laws and, therefore, cannot be cited as an excuse for voting absentee. The court ruled unanimously on the matter.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht wrote the following in the court’s opinion: “We agree with the State that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code. But the State acknowledges that election officials have no responsibility to question or investigate a ballot application that is valid on its face. The decision to apply to vote by mail based on a disability is the voter’s, subject to a correct understanding of the statutory definition of ‘disability.'”

This ruling overturned two lower state court rulings to the contrary. On May 19, a federal district court judge ordered that all voters be allowed to cast absentee ballots, but the U.S. Court of the Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed that order later that same day.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann tests positive for COVID-19

On May, 21, 2020, Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra Lehrmann announced she tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Lehrmann made the announcement on Twitter, noting that her husband had also tested positive.
Justices on the Texas Supreme Court are working remotely during the pandemic.
Lehrmann is the first statewide Texas official known to have tested positive for the virus.
Ballotpedia tracks politicians and government officials who have been diagnosed or tested for coronavirus, or become quarantined.
As of May 22, we have tracked:
• Six federal officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 40 federal officials quarantined
• 31 state officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 67 state officials quarantined

Filing deadline approaches for Texas State Senate District 14 special election

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Texas State Senate District 14 have until May 13, 2020, to file. The special general election is scheduled for July 14, 2020.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Greg Abbott (R) scheduled the election for July instead of May 2, when it would normally have been held.

The special election was called after Kirk Watson (D) left office on April 30 to become the dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. Watson served from 2007 to 2020.

As of May 2020, 43 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Texas held 32 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2019.

Entering the 2020 election year, the Texas State Senate has 11 Democrats, 19 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 16 seats. Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

President Trump announces two judicial nominees

On April 29, President Donald Trump (R) announced two nominees to Article III federal judicial positions. Article III federal judges are appointed by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life. The nominees include:

  • Aileen Mercedes Cannon, nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida
  • James Wesley Hendrix, nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • Dirk B. Paloutzian, nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California

Since assuming office in January 2017, Trump has nominated 255 individuals to serve as Article III federal judges. The president nominated 69 judicial nominees in 2017, 92 in 2018, and 77 in 2019.

Since January 2017, the Senate has confirmed 194 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—139 district court judges, 51 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices.