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H-E-B’s Charles Butt sides with Harris County in debate over mail-in ballots

Charles Butt, the billionaire owner of the San Antonio-based grocery chain H-E-B, this week sent a letter to the Texas Supreme Court, siding with Harris County on its plan to send mail ballot applications to all registered voters prior to the November election.

In the letter, Butt said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins’ plan was permissible under the Texas Election Code.

“Clerk Hollins’s efforts to make absentee ballots widely available trusts voters, protecting those who are vulnerable from unnecessary exposure in this new Covid world in which we’re living,” Butt wrote. “It’s always been my impression that the more people who vote, the stronger our democracy will be.”

Hollins originally announced plans to send the applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in Harris County, but earlier this week, the clerk said his office would only send them to registered voters 65 and over, who automatically qualify for mail ballots under state law. The change was prompted by a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said the plan was unlawful and would confuse voters. Hollins said he made the change in exchange for the attorney general to drop his call for a temporary restraining order.

Texas voters are eligible for mail ballots if they are at least 65 years old, disabled, out of the county or incarcerated during the voting period. The disability clause has been the subject of debate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, a separate battle on the same subject has been playing out in state Supreme Court, which ruled on Wednesday that Harris County only could send the mail ballot applications to votes 65 and older.

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