Texas Supreme Court 2020 Election Litigation: List of Cases with Hyperlinks to Dockets and Opinions
14 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 12, 2020
The 2020 elections were the most heavily litigated in U.S. history. Texas is no exception. This paper presents comprehensive data for election law cases filed in the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX), whether they resulted in an opinion or not.
As of Nov. 9, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court has issued at total of 17 opinions in 31 election law cases, including concurrences and dissents. One member of the nine-member court, Justice John Devine, was a particularly active dissenter, with both separate opinions and with dissents merely noted on the docket.
Some of the election-related cases were highly contentious and attracted ample media attention, as well as a total of 50 amicus curiae briefs and letters.
The array of legal disputes before the Texas Supreme Court encompassed wrangling over ballot access by candidates (including those of minor parties), a dispute with the City of Houston over cancellation of the GOP’s in-person convention, the legal uncertainty regarding voters’ eligibility to vote by mail in times of pandemic, and efforts to squelch local election officials’ innovations in the management of elections, such as promotion of absentee voting as a pandemic mitigation strategy, drop-off locations for mail ballots, and drive-thru voting in Harris County.
With respect to voting rights, the all-Republican Court ruled in a manner to restrict voting, consonant with President Trump’s rhetoric about voter fraud as also echoed by leading GOP politicians in Texas. The Republican Attorney General and is his army of litigators performed a leading role in that effort, both in public communication, and in state and federal courts. However, the Texas Supreme Court did not always favor Republican petitioners, rejecting requests for relief on various grounds, including lack of jurisdiction in one case and unjustified delays in bringing their complaints to the court.
Not all of the controversies presented to the Texas high court led to decisions on the merits. Noteworthy is the Court’s rejection of Republican challenges to drive-thru voting in Harris County without ruling on whether the practice conforms with the Texas Election Code, and without resolving whether the validity of more than 120,000 ballots already cast by drive-thru voters was affected.
Four sitting members of the court, including Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, were themselves on the ballots in 2020, and in the end comfortably won reelection even though Texas was said to be “in play” in the lead-up to early voting.
Keywords: Election-disputes, election litigation, election administration, absentee voting, ballot access, Texas courts
JEL Classification: K10, K41, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation