This has been a running fight between Harris County and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been trying to stop the ballot applications from going out so broadly, saying they should go only to voters qualified to vote by mail. The ruling concerns only applications to vote by mail, and not ballots.
Harris County houses Houston, the state’s largest city. Houston is heavily Democratic, and the area around it is a political battleground, with several districts that are competitive.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, a Democrat, responded to the ruling by saying the applications have already been sent to voters 65 and older.
“My office is prepared to send applications and educational materials to remaining registered voters at the conclusion of this baseless litigation,” Hollins said in a tweet.
But Paxton, a Republican, asserted in a statement later Tuesday that “the Harris County Clerk knowingly chose to violate Texas election law and undermine election security,” adding: “I thank the court for preventing the clerk from proceeding with his unlawful plans while this case continues.”
It was the latest court decision to go against Texas Democrats when it comes to mail-in voting.
A divided federal appeals court had ruled Thursday that Texas can continue allowing no-excuse absentee voting for senior citizens while requiring voters under 65 to provide an excuse if they want an absentee ballot. A lower court previously agreed with the Democrats’ claim that the Texas law illegally discriminated against younger voters, but the appeals court reversed that decision last Thursday and sent the case back for further litigation.
The US Supreme Court had denied a request in July to expedite deciding on that case, making it unlikely that it will be resolved before the November election.
Texas has been traditionally Republican over the last several decades, but Democrats think it is in play in the November election. Multiple polls have found a tight race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in the Lone Star State, with several indicating the candidates were separated by only 1 point in July. The Real Clear Politics average of polling in Texas shows the President leading by 3.5 points in the state.
This story has been updated with additional context and background.
Bioreports’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.