‘Ballot security’ or voter suppression? Battle begins in Texas county
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott defends order limiting drop-off locations for absentee ballots; Eric Shawn reports
The Texas Republican Party filed a lawsuit Monday night challenging a decision by the state's most populous county to provide more voting options amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state GOP's lawsuit, filed in a state appeals court in Houston hours before early voting in Texas began, argued that Harris County had violated the state's election code by offering drive-thru and curbside voting.
"This illegal policy, which is grounded on the dubious notion that a lack of immunity from COVID-19 justifies a wholesale repudiation of the Texas Election Code, has already been expressly rejected by the Texas Supreme Court," the suit reads.
The lawsuit seeks to halt the drive-thru voting program and limit curbside voting to those who have submitted sworn applications saying they qualify for it.
TEXAS GOV SUED OVER PLAN TO REDUCE BALLOT DROP BOX LOCATIONS
State election law has long allowed Texans with medical conditions to vote curbside, in which a ballot is brought outside to them by a poll worker while the voter remains in their car. Harris County also opened 10 drive-thru locations on Tuesday for early voting, in which voters are handed a portable machine through their car window to vote.
Drive-thru voting allows for voters to safely cast their ballots while "naturally socially distanced" within their vehicles and is as secure as walk-in voting, according to the Harris County Clerk's Office website.
“Unless stopped, each of these instances of illegal voting will cast a cloud over the results of the General Election,” the lawsuit states.
In a statement to the Texas Tribune, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said the lawsuit is in line with Republicans trying to limit people's right to vote.
TEXAS COUNTY SUED OVER LACK OF POLLING SITES
"This lawsuit is not only frivolous, but it’s also a gross misrepresentation of the differences between curbside voting — for voters with disabilities, including illness — and drive-thru voting, which is available for all voters who want to vote from the safety and convenience of their vehicle," he said.
Harris County nearly doubled turnout on the first day of early voting.
Texas has some of the most stringent voting laws in the country and is one of a handful of states that did not relax criteria for requesting mail-in ballots during the virus-induced crisis. The state allows voters to cast an absentee ballot if they are over the age of 65, have an illness or disability, will be out of the country for early voting or Election Day, or are in jail but otherwise eligible to vote.
Last week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Harris County — a heavily Democratic area — could not send out applications for mail-in ballots to the 2.4 million registered voters living in the county.
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Millions of Americans are expected to vote by mail this November due to the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the chances the winner of the presidential race won't immediately be known on election night. State election officials in several key battleground states have warned it could take days to count all of the votes.
President Trump has repeatedly claimed – with little evidence – that mail-in voting would allow for widespread fraud.
According to an aggregate of polls from RealClearPolitics, Trump is leading Democratic rival Joe Biden by 4.4 percentage points in Texas.
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