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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Republican-dominated Texas Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Chris Hollins, the Democratic Harris County Clerk, may not mail unsolicited ballot applications to some 2.4 million voters.

Driving the news: Texans can only vote by mail if they are over 65 years of age, absent on Election Day, disabled, imprisoned or if they have confidential addresses. Hollins sent out applications to all voters aged over 65 in Harris County, according to BuzzFeed News, but had been trying to send them to all voters in case they too were eligible.

  • "Mass-mailing unsolicited ballot applications to voters ineligible to vote by mail cannot be said to be necessary or indispensable to the conduct of early voting," the court ruled.
  • Because no other county is doing this and it's at such a large scale, the court also said that "his plan threatens to undermine the statutorily required uniform operation of election laws across the state."
  • As for any loopholes, the court already ruled in May that a lack of immunity to the coronavirus does not qualify a voter as disabled under state law.
  • The documents are often distributed by political campaigns, according to the Texas Tribune, but the court said a government official was not allowed to do so.

Why it matters: Texas, which is traditionally a red state, is closer than usual in both the presidential and Senate races. Such a close race has led Republicans across the nation to challenge voting by mail during the pandemic as Democrats have sought to expand options for voters.

The state of play: Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation requiring all mail ballots be dropped off at the one voting clerk's office designated per county for "enhanced ballot security protocol." This meant the closure of 11 drop-off locations that Harris County had set up.

  • Texas Democrats believe the decision is anti-democratic and have started to campaign against the four justices up for re-election this year.
  • Harris County clerk staff members have sent out almost 230,000 mail ballots so far.

Go deeper

Dec 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Early voting begins in Georgia's key Senate runoffs

Voters line outside the High Museum polling station in Atlanta, Georgia on the first day of voting in the state's Senate runoffs. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

People lined up outside polling places across Georgia on Monday for the first day of early voting in the state's two runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: More than 1.2 million people have already requested mail-in absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have returned them as of Monday, per data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

Live list: The "Facebook Papers" arrive

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Reports based on leaked whistleblower documents from Facebook, known as the Facebook Papers, appeared in a broad range of news outlets Monday, shedding light on what company knew about harms caused on its platform and how it handled that information.

Why it matters: The reports paint a detailed picture of Facebook's efforts over the years to grapple with major problems — from hate speech to inciting violence — while continuing to pursue its business objectives.

U.S. will now allow private citizens to sponsor Afghan refugees

A family boards a bus at the airport that will take them to a refugee processing center after being evacuated from Kabul. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Americans wanting to help vulnerable Afghan refugees now have a new way to get involved through a new U.S. private refugee sponsorship program announced Monday.

  • Groups of at least 5 adults can apply, complete background checks and start fundraising the $2,275 per refugee required.

Why it matters: It’s a big shift in the U.S refugee process, which has long relied on non-profits.