Dallas County Commissioners Pass Resolution To Allow Vote-By-Mail

Alan Scaia
May 05, 2020 - 9:36 am
Dallas County Commissioners Meeting

DALLAS (KRLD) - Dallas County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday morning to allow people to list concerns about COVID-19 as a disability to get approved to vote by mail. To vote by mail, someone must be 65 or older, be disabled, be out of the country during early voting and on election day, or be in jail but still able to vote.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says concerns about COVID-19 would not be an acceptable claim for disability. He says only people who have tested positive for COVID-19 would be eligible to vote by mail.

"Based on the plain language of the relevant statutory text, fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Texas Election Code for purposes of receiving a ballot by mail," Paxton wrote in his opinion last week.

Tuesday morning, Dallas County commissioners voted 4-1 on a resolution supporting people who choose to ask for a mail-in ballot out of concern of contracting COVID-19 on election day.

"If people power through it like they did in Wisconsin, they'll stand in lines, they stand right next to each other. They're touching the same things, and then there's an outbreak. We don't want that," says Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Jenkins says refusing vote-by-mail for people concerned about the virus would hold down turnout.

"We know the majority of voters want that choice," he says. "The polls tell us that."

The only commissioner to vote "no" was J.J. Koch.

"You're essentially saying, 'go,' and then not enforcing any check of that disability," Koch says. "You're creating an environment where unlawfulness could run rampant."

Koch says guidance from Paxton's office suggests the attorney general's office would not prosecute individuals who claim a disability. Instead, he says Paxton would prosecute groups that encourage people to seek mail-in ballots even if they are not eligible.

Koch says COVID-19 may have already peaked and cases could be dwindling by November.

"We should take a wait-and-see approach," he says.

The vote does not change any rules. Commissioners were voting on a resolution introduced by John Wiley Price which encouraged people with concerns about the virus to claim a disability.

You can read Attorney General Paxton's Full letter here.