AUSTIN – The Texas Attorney General's Office recently responded affirmatively to an inquiry of whether people civilly committed were able to vote early by mail under Texas Elec. Code § 82.02.
Specifically, the inquiry pertained to people deemed sexually violent predators under Texas Health and Safety Code 841.001-.151. The inquiry was requested by Scott A. Say, Lamb County district attorney.
82.02 states: “A qualified voter is eligible for early voting by mail if the voter has a sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on Election Day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.”
In a response released by Attorney General Ken Paxton's Office, it said that such early voting by mail under this provision would “likely” be allowed.
“A court would likely conclude that a qualified voter civilly committed pursuant to chapter 841 of the Health and Safety Code and residing at the Texas Civil Commitment Center is eligible to vote by mail under subsection 82.002(a) of the Election Code,” the release states.
The reasoning centered on the fact that civilly committed sexually violent predators had served their criminal sentence upon being released to the Texas Civil Commitment Office and were allowed to vote. However, they would be unable to vote at a polling station without assistance because of restrictions the TCCO places on offender’s travel.
Furthermore, the mental state of the offender would qualify as a “sickness” under 82.02 because “the common understandings of the term include an ‘unsound condition,’” said the attorney general's office. Therefore, it was acceptable to allow such offenders the ability to vote early by mail.
Under sections 841.001-.151, a sexually violent predator is a person who: "(1) is a repeat sexually violent offender; and (2) suffers from a behavioral abnormality that makes the person likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence."
Under these sections, a behavioral abnormality is “a congenital or acquired condition that, by affecting a person’s emotional or volitional capacity, predisposes the person to commit a sexually violent offense, to the extent that the person becomes a menace to the health and safety of another person.”