Texans who boast that everything is bigger in their state can include the hypocrisy of its Republican Party.
One bigger-than-big example involves an absentee ballot application printed up by the Texas GOP.
Even as the party mass mails these applications to the faithful, Republican state officials are seeking to bar Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins—a Democrat—from mass mailing a nearly identical application. There is only one significant difference.
The Harris County form is simply a viable official document intended to ensure that the pandemic does not prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot.
But the GOP version is printed on the back of a flyer featuring a photo of President Trump with his right hand over his heart.
“President Trump is counting on you,” it announces.
It also says, “Join millions of your fellow Americans doing their part to support Our Great American Comeback. Make a plan today to fill out the attached absentee ballot request forms.”
“TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION... President Trump needs you to act now,” it says.
And there is a quote from Trump.
“I will be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters. It works. 7/30/20.”
One Trump quote that definitely would not have been included is from 4/10/20.
“Mail ballots, they cheat,” Mr. Trump told the press at the White House that day. “Mail ballots are very serious for this country because of cheaters.”
Trump’s ranting about rigged elections preceded the 2016 election and became more insistent in the immediate aftermath, when he appointed Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to head the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity.
Trump apparently hoped to prove he had won the popular vote and Kobach started out saying that less than a dozen undocumented immigrants reported to have voted in Kansas were “just the tip of the iceberg.” The commission was disbanded the following year, unable to uncover significant voting fraud.
“There is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error,” Kansas federal judge Julie Robinson noted.
Trump further proved himself unhampered by facts as he periodically ranted on into the present year about rigged elections and voter fraud. His groundless charges were echoed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican who became the state’s own Grim Reaper as he pressed ahead with an effort to scuttle Obamacare and leave millions without health insurance in the middle of the pandemic.
Paxton’s previous hypocrisy had grown Texas-sized as he helped fuel a statewide COVID-19 spike by continuing to oppose mask mandates. He further demonstrated the grimness of his reaping as he sought to prevent localities from requiring face coverings.
On top of all that, Paxton moved to preclude voters from casting absentee ballots simply because they were afraid to venture out to the polls and risk catching COVID-19. He sent a May 1 letter to the applicable county officials.
“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,” it said in part. “Accordingly, public officials shall not advise voters who lack a qualifying sickness or physical condition to vote by mail in response to COVID-19.”
Paxton warned, “As to third parties advising voters to apply for a ballot by mail for reasons not authorized by the Election Code, including fear of contracting COVID-19 without an accompanying qualifying disability, such activity could subject those third parties to criminal sanctions.”
That's right: The Grim Reaper was saying you risked being jailed if you so much as advised somebody just to apply for an absentee ballot when they were suffering nothing more than terror of the virus.
Paxton took the matter to the Texas Supreme Court and won. But he was not done. He secured an injunction against Hollins in Harris County to prevent the clerk from sending out absentee ballot applications to all of its 2.4 million voters.
Never mind that Hollins was seeking to ensure that anybody who qualified to vote that way could. The Hollins applications were to be accompanied by instructions spelling out who was qualified to vote absentee under Texas law. That includes those who are over 65 or disabled or incarcerated or out of the jurisdiction during the voting period.
Paxton was still not having it.
“He has no authority under the law to send out applications,” Paxton said of Hollins on a local TV show. “It’s not his job. If somebody requests it—that’s what the law says—if somebody requests it, he can do it. But he can’t just decide, ‘I’m just going to send out millions of ballots and spend millions of dollars.’ It’s not within his authority to do that.”
Paxton sounded like a Trump Mini-Me in a Sept. 1 “Op-Ed” titled “Mail-in Voting: A Threat to Democracy,” which he posted on his official website.
“Our democracy is threatened, this time by way of the post office,” he wrote. “Democrats across the nation are pushing mail-in ballots for every voter in November. Not wanting to let the crisis caused by COVID-19 go to waste, they’ve disguised their plot to manipulate the integrity of our election system by arguing that voters fear contracting COVID-19 if they physically show up to the polls.”
He went on, trying to make an iceberg out of what had been found to be no more than an icicle: “Democrat leadership clearly wants non-citizens to vote, which is ironic since they also claim to be concerned about foreign influence over our elections. The Left is willing to mar our democracy for a chance at winning at the ballot box. That is simply un-American.”
He ended with mail-in voting.
“Politically-motivated groups want to scare us into allowing what amounts to unlimited vote by mail. In doing so, they are stealing your right to vote. Democrats distract the public with talk of foreign involvement in our elections while they are brazenly creating election interference themselves. If we willfully compromise the integrity of our election process, we are threatening the future of our country as we know it. Let’s work together to stop them and keep our elections safe, fair, and honest.”
And, lest anyone imagine that Paxton was the only Lone Star mini-Trump, the Republican Party of Texas declared, “It is clear that the Harris County Clerk, Chris Hollins, is a partisan Democrat who is using his position to dump an untold number of ballots loosely across Harris County. We cannot allow the Democrat Party to engage in ballot harvesting. It is up to Texas Republicans to defend the integrity of our democratic process.”
By then, the state GOP had begun sending out absentee ballot applications that mirror the Harris County applications, with the addition of the Trump picture and the campaign exhortations.
As of Wednesday, the stay that Paxton secured for Hollins’ absentee effort remained in effect pending further hearings. The Harris County GOP has also brought a lawsuit, on similar grounds and of similar shamelessness.
Neither Paxton’s office nor the state GOP—nor Hollins’s office—responded to requests for comment. The Grim Reaper has let stand his threat to seek criminal charges against anyone who counseled voters to apply for an absentee ballot because the pandemic—that he himself helped stoke—had them afraid to vote in person.
Now that is truly Texas-sized hypocrisy.