Court Throws Out Texas GOP Lawsuit Targeting ‘Drive-Thru’ Voting

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 07: An election worker accepts ballots from voters in cars at a drive-through mail ballot drop-off site at NRG Stadium on October 7, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive... HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 07: An election worker accepts ballots from voters in cars at a drive-through mail ballot drop-off site at NRG Stadium on October 7, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Gov. Gregg Abbott issued an executive order limiting each county to one mail ballot drop-off site due to the pandemic. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 14, 2020 11:12 a.m.

Texas Republicans’ latest attempt to make voting harder in the pandemic didn’t get very far.

A lawsuit filed by the state Monday night challenging Harris County’s plans to operate “drive-thru” voting sites has already been thrown out by the court, according to the Texas Tribune.

Just in the first day that the drive-thru voting option was available to Harris County voters, more than 11,000 of them utilized it, according to the county clerk’s office.

The court knocked the state Republican Party — and an individual Harris County voter who joined the GOP in the lawsuit — for waiting until the month after the curbside voting plans became known to file the court petition. The court dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, because the challengers had not proved they would suffer a particularized injury if Harris County offered drive-thru voting.

The lawsuit came after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had already limited to just one-per-county the locations where voters could submit mail-in ballots in person.

Additionally, the Texas GOP previously sued Abbott for his move to allow early in-person voting to begin a week earlier this year because of the pandemic.

Texas has some of the strictest voting laws in the country, and is one of just a few states that is not letting concerns about COVID-19 alone count as an excuse to vote absentee.

Democratic-leaning Harris County, which contains Houston and has a population of 4.7 million people, has been a flashpoint in pandemic fights around voting. The county was sued over its plans to proactively mail absentee ballot applications to all its voters, and thanks to the recent directive from Abbott, it had to reduce the number of locations for in-person mail ballot drop off from 12 sites to just one.

The latest Republican lawsuit, filed just before early voting was about the get underway, alleged that Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins was violating state law by operating drive-thru voting sites throughout his county.

Harris County is planning to offer ten “drive-thru” voting sites, where in-person voters can stay in their cars while an election worker checks their ID and lets them operate a voting machine through the window.

Since early voting started, turnout in the county has been through the roof.

In a statement about the lawsuit, the Texas Democratic Party said that the state GOP — along with Abbott and the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court — were “cowards” for “attempting to quash every opportunity to vote that is not the exact same as it was in 1900.”

“It won’t work,” the statement, from Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, said. “Right now, millions of Texans across the state are doing everything in their power to make their voices heard. This terrifies Texas Republicans because they know Texans are fed up.”

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins noted in a statement that his office had worked with Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughes to set up the drive-thru sites in a way that would “ensure the integrity” of the program.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision to not entertain this ridiculous attempt to disenfranchise thousands of Harris County Voters,” Hollins said.
Read court order dismissing the GOP lawsuit below:

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