Judge Blocks Texas Governor's Order on Ballot Drop-Offs

Greg Abbott had mandated just one ballot drop-off site per county, drawing cries of voter suppression
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2020 6:30 AM CDT
Judge Blocks Texas Governor's Order on Ballot Drop-Offs
Signs direct traffic at a drive-thru ballot drop-off location at the Travis County Tax Office in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 1, 2020.   (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Last week, cries of voter suppression arose after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that limited mail-in ballot drop-off locations to just one per county throughout the state. Now, a federal judge has blocked that order, noting that it puts an unacceptable burden on more vulnerable voters in the state. "By limiting ballot return centers to one per county, older and disabled voters living in Texas' largest and most populous counties must travel further distances to more crowded ballot return centers," US District Judge Robert Pitman said, per the Statesman, noting that these particular voters are more susceptible to COVID-19. Pitman added that if voters were forced to rely on the US Postal Service to get their absentee ballots in, they risked being disenfranchised if the ballots didn't get delivered in time to count.

KVUE details the various civil rights and voting rights groups that filed complaints after Abbott put out his order, including one by the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, which stated that Abbott's decree "threatens the right to vote for countless lawful Texas voters." Abbott's legal team had argued that Abbott had actually acted to expand voting rights, adding early-voting days and suspending a rule that allowed voters to drop off absentee ballots only on Election Day, and that Abbott was only trying to protect the integrity of the election. Pitman pushed back on that, noting voters who bring ballots to drop-off locations must show photo ID and sign a register. "Pitman's common sense order ... stopped the governor from making up election rules after the election started," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa says. "Frankly, it ought to be a shock to all of us that such a ruling is even required." Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is likely to appeal Pitman's decision. (Read more Texas stories.)

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