Federal judge blocks Texas governor’s order to shut down ballot drop-off sites

Federal judge blocks Texas governor’s order to shut down ballot drop-off sites

The fight to vote


Last week the governor, Greg Abbott, limited each county to one mail-in ballot drop-off site



Travis county election officials collect mail-in ballots in the only authorized facility in the county on 7 October.






Travis county election officials collect mail-in ballots in the only authorized facility in the county on 7 October.
Photograph: Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock
On Friday evening, US federal judge Robert Pitman blocked Texas governor Greg Abbott’s order to shut down mail-in ballot drop-off sites across the state as the election is currently under way.

Last week, Abbott issued a proclamation limiting each county to only one ballot drop-off site, regardless of size or population. This decision would have led to the closure of drop-off sites across the state, including 11 in Harris county and three in Travis county. A lawsuit was immediately filed by civil right organizations.

Critics argued Abbott’s order to close drop-off sites would disproportionately affect larger, more diverse counties and hit communities of color, making it more difficult for them to vote. Harris county has more than 4.7 million residents and is the third most populous county in the nation and home to the city of Houston. Travis county is home to Texas’s capital city, Austin. By comparison, smaller counties like Brewster county in west Texas, which has a population of just under 10,000, would remain unaffected by the ruling as it has always only had one drop-off site.

Requests for absentee ballots in Texas are higher than previous elections due to the coronavirus pandemic, but concerns of mail slowdowns presented a need for drop-off locations. The ruling by Pitman blocking Abbott’s move is a victory for those deemed eligible to vote by mail in the state, including the elderly and disabled who would have had to travel farther distances to drop off their ballot and risk exposure to Covid-19.

Harris County Clerk
(@HarrisVotes)

Statement from Harris County Clerk @CGHollins:
Tonight’s injunction reinstating Harris County voters’ ability to hand-deliver their ballots at 12 county offices is a victory for voting rights. (1/3) https://t.co/t5v4Zb9g6h

October 10, 2020

In a statement, the Harris county clerk, Chris Hollins, said: “Tonight’s injunction reinstating Harris county voters’ ability to hand-deliver their ballots at 12 county offices is a victory for voting rights. The governor’s suppressive tactics should not be tolerated, and tonight’s ruling shows that the law is on the side of Texas voters.”

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