Texas Guv Sued For Move To Severely Limit Mail Ballot Drop-Off Locations

on March 24, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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October 2, 2020 10:54 a.m.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as several individual voters, sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his Thursday order that allowed local election officials to set up just one mail ballot drop-off location per county.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday evening, alleges that the new policy — which was announced the day before several drop-off locations were scheduled to open — is a violation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.

“The impact of this eleventh-hour decisions is momentous, targets Texas’ most vulnerable voters—older voters, and voters with disabilities—and results in wild variations in access to absentee voting drop-off locations depending on the county a voter resides in,” the lawsuit said. “It also results in predictable disproportionate impacts on minority communities that already hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.”

County election officials from Harris County, Travis County, Fort Bend County and El Paso County are also named as defendants in the suit, as is Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.

The lawsuit notes that counties like Travis and Harris — which have populations larger than some U.S. states and also sprawling geographies — had planned to offer several locations for absentee voters to drop off their ballots.

Before Thursday’s proclamation, the county election officials “were given no notice that they would be required to change their election operations in under 24 hours,” the lawsuit said.

Texas has been extremely resistant to making voting easier in the pandemic — it is one of a very few number of states not letting fear of COVID alone count as an excuse to vote absentee — but Abbott did issue orders earlier this year extending the period for in-person early voting as well as the period voters would have to submit their mail ballots in person.

The latest proclamation undermines that initiative, and came after Abbott faced a backlash from members of his own party who sued him in court over the moderate voter access measures had taken in light of the pandemic.

The new lawsuit alleges that “Abbott has provided no meaningful justification for the one-per-county limit on drop-off locations” and that the proclamation’s invocation of security was “unexplained.”

“Defendants’ insistence that every county in Texas provide only a single absentee ballot drop box—regardless of geographical size or population—requires that counties provide voters with disparate access to the franchise. Texas’s 254 counties vary dramatically in both physical size and population,” the lawsuit said.”The use of county lines as the delineation for the number of voting resources that may be provided is therefore arbitrary.”

The counties that stand to take brunt of the negative impact of Abbott’s order are those that have disproportionately high minority populations. The lawsuit alleges that the limits violate the Voting Rights Act because  “because they deny and abridge the right to vote on account of race and language minority status.”

Read the lawsuit below:

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