The Texas Democratic Party has vowed to oust four Texas Supreme Court justices who are up for re-election in November, but can they make good on that threat?
Judicial races generally don’t garner a lot of voter interest, but this year might be different now that the state supreme court has decided to side with the state’s GOP political leadership in the legal fight to expand the right to vote-by-mail to all registered Texas voters.
The court ruled Wednesday that lack of immunity to the coronavirus does not qualify as a reason for all eligible Texas voters to be able to request a mail ballot during the pandemic.
Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said most of the state’s 28 million residents are not following the mail ballot dispute, but the 1 to 1.5 million registered voters in the state are, and it could impact how they vote in November, especially if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall.
“By and large, the Democratic Party is not going to lose any votes for advocating for a more flexible form of absentee voting for those who fear contracting COVID-19,” Jones stated in an email response to Reform Austin. “In contrast, the Texas Republican Party could very well face the wrath of a small but significant share of traditional GOP voters if it continues to maintain its intransigent position on not allowing those under the age of 65 to request a mail ballot if they fear that by doing so they would put their health or the lives of their loved ones at risk.”
The Texas Democratic Party is targeting justices Nathan Hecht, Jane Bland, Jeffrey Boyd and Brett Busby. They are the only members of the all-Republican court on the ballot in November.
Jones said Democrats’ success hinges on the top of the ticket, in particular Joe Biden. He said the more they are able to remind voters of how Texas Supreme Court decisions affect their daily lives and provide examples that put the court on the opposite side of majority opinion, the greater the chance they can flip a seat on the high court.
Even with that and the absence of straight party ticket voting, Jones said the incumbent GOP justices have the edge.
“None of the Texas Supreme Court candidates are either deeply flawed or well-known, which means an overwhelming majority of voters will base their Texas Supreme Court vote on the candidate’s party label, and in 2020 in Texas, that means the Republican Party candidate is a very strong favorite to win,” said Jones.
In lawsuits filed in both state and federal court, the Texas Democratic Party and numerous others are challenging the state’s law that limits vote-by-mail to voters who are 65, disabled or away from their home county during early voting or on Election Day. They argue that prohibiting voters under the age of 65 from requesting mail ballots during a pandemic amount to a voting rights violation.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has alleged that expanded mail balloting would be ripe with fraud.
Wednesday’s Texas Supreme Court ruling decides the state court case, but the federal courts are still considering the issue. It is expected that the U.S. Supreme Court will wind up being the final arbiter.
The Republican Party of Texas was offered the opportunity to comment on this story. There has been no response.