There’s a massive demand for mail-in ballots during coronavirus pandemic, Travis Co. Clerk says

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir told KXAN that her office has received 17,000 requests for mail-in ballots for the July runoff election, approximately 16,000 more than a typical runoff election.

DeBeauvoir said the demand for mail-in ballots is clear that voters are concerned about the potential health impacts of voting in-person during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is now up to the voter and if they tell us on this application form that they have a disability that’s going to potentially injure their health they are absolutely eligible to vote ballot by mail,” DeBeauvoir said.

Confusion spread over who is eligible to vote by mail following a Texas Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that a lack of COVID-19 immunity is not, on its own, a condition that would qualify as a disability in the state’s election code. The justices advised voters to take their own health conditions into account when deciding whether to request a mail-in ballot.

In order to qualify for a mail-in ballot, a voter must be 65 years or older, disabled, out of the country on election day, or confined to jail but eligible to vote.

The court also clarified that it is not the responsibility of county clerks to investigate a disability claim on a mail-in ballot request form. It is the responsibility of county clerks to review that all necessary information is included in the request, nothing more.

“If a voter has a condition such as asthma, diabetes, any other kind of immunocompromised system, if the voter has comorbidities, all of those are going to be included in the voter’s judgment about asking for a ballot by mail,” DeBeauvoir said.

The Texas Supreme Court ruling was the conclusion of a Texas Democratic Party lawsuit which challenged the state over whether all Texans should qualify to vote by mail during the pandemic. A federal lawsuit is still being considered by the 5th District Court of Appeals.

Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has defended the state’s election code, still contends that a disability means a voter can’t physically get to a polling location. However, state election code says a sickness falls under the umbrella of disability.

“Not your fear that somehow by going to the polls you’ll get worse, that’s not even close to what we’re talking about,” Paxton.

The last day for a county clerk to receive a mail-in ballot application to participate in the July runoff election is July 2.

KXAN Political Reporter John Engel is digging into the latest ruling by the Texas Supreme Court on mail-in voting and will have a full report tonight at 10 p.m.

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