Texas Governor Allowing For Only One Absentee Ballot Drop-Off Location Per County Ahead Of Election
Critics say the governor's proclamation is an attempt to suppress voting.
October 02, 2020 at 7:33 pm
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that local counties are only allowed to designate one location for election ballot drop-offs, an effort state Democrats say is a deliberate attempt to deter voters.
Democratic Texas counties previously set up numerous drop-off sites in anticipation of polling challenges, however, officials are now looking to file a lawsuit challenging the order, The Texas Tribune reports.
The governor called his announcement an attempt to “strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state.”
Texas voting rights experts argue Abbott’s initiative will add barriers to absentee balloting in an election year when more citizens are expected to vote by mail than ever before. Given the coronavirus outbreak and possible U.S. Postal Service delays, voting officials said drop-off locations are especially vital for voters with disabilities or those lacking access to transportation in communities of color.
In Harris County, one of the state’s major Democratic counties, officials have been collecting ballots at 12 designated locations.
Abbott said ballots submitted before Oct. 2 will be accepted. In July, he gave voters additional time to deliver their absentee ballots by hand which is an option usually for voters only on Election Day.
Lina Hidalgo, the Democratic Harris County judge, challenged the governor’s edict, calling it a form of suppression that requires some voters to drive up to 30 miles to drop off ballots.
“Harris County is bigger than the state of Rhode Island, and we're supposed to have 1 site? This isn't security, it's suppression. Mail ballot voters shouldn't have to drive 30 miles to drop off their ballot, or rely on a mail system that’s facing cutbacks,” she tweeted.
Harris County is bigger than the state of Rhode Island, and we're supposed to have 1 site? This isn't security, it's suppression. Mail ballot voters shouldn't have to drive 30 miles to drop off their ballot, or rely on a mail system that’s facing cutbacks. https://t.co/IeKwzdB0Hb
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) October 1, 2020
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins added that Abbott’s move is potentially dangerous for thousands of senior voters who could risk contracting the coronavirus to vote at the sole designation in their county.
“To force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single drop-off location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous,” Hollins said.
In Travis County, another large Democratic base, officials designated four sites where voters could submit their ballots before Abbott’s announcement, but have since updated their website to match the governor's initiative.
“This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the election,” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said Thursday at a press conference.
On Friday, Democratic advocates filed a lawsuit to reverse Abbott’s order, citing it as an unconstitutional burden on voters that will disproportionally affect people of color, according to The Texas Tribune.
“It raises a real concern that people are going to have just one more barrier to successfully submitting their ballot,” Mimi Marziani, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said. “And it opens the door to voter intimidation.”
The state extended its early voting period by six days and is permitting Texans to drop off absentee ballots before Election Day.
Other states, like Illinois and Utah, have allowed universal absentee voting or implemented drop-off boxes where voters can deliver their ballots, per the Brookings Institute on public policy.
“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute. We are creating a movement that will beat them at the ballot box on November 3, and there’s nothing these cheaters can do about it,” Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.