In a highly unusual move, the billionaire owner of the H-E-B grocery store chain is attempting to wield his influence with the Texas courts in the legal fight over Harris County’s massive mail ballot outreach plan.
In a letter to the Texas Supreme Court first obtained by the Quorum Report, Charles Butt sides with Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins and his plan to send mail ballot applications to all 2.4 million of Harris County’s registered voters.
“Clerk Hollins’s efforts to make absentee ballots widely available trusts voters, protecting those who are vulnerable from unnecessary exposure in this new COVID world in which we’re living,” Butt wrote. “It’s always been my impression that the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy will be.”
The state’s high court on Wednesday issued a temporary halt to Hollins’s plan. A day earlier, Hollins said he would hold off while the court case is pending.
There are two lawsuits. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Hollins claiming sending mail ballot applications to all voters is an overreach of Hollins’ authority and would foster fraud. Conservative activist Steve Hotze and the Texas GOP bypassed the lower courts and went straight to the Texas Supreme Court with their case. It is in that case that the ruling halting Hollins from moving forward was issued.
Butt clearly has a strong opinion on the issue, but he may get more public relations mileage out of it than he will get attention from the Texas Supreme Court. Judges tend to give more credence to legal arguments than letters from the public.
In Texas, you are eligible to vote by mail if you are 65 or older, disabled, incarcerated or away from home during early voting or on Election Day. You decide whether you have a disability. Election officials are not authorized to second-guess your request.