“To limit ballot, drop off locations this close to the election, and as voting has already begun, is voter suppression, plain and simple…, our state has erected higher barriers for voters. It’s shameful.” Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas.
The League of Women Voters of Texas, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), LULAC Texas, and two individual voters filed a lawsuit against Texas Governor Greg Abbott for his proclamation that would dramatically limit options for Texas voters seeking to hand-deliver their completed absentee ballots for this fall’s election. In an order set to take effect today, Abbott announced on Thursday that each of Texas’s 254 counties can only have one absentee drop off location, regardless of geographic size or population.
“To limit ballot drop off locations this close to the election, and as voting has already begun, is voter suppression, plain and simple,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “In a presidential election year with massive voter interest during a deadly pandemic, Texas should be focused on expanding safe voting options this year. But instead of protecting our most vulnerable voters—those with disabilities and those 65 and over—and ensuring their safe access to the ballot, our state has erected higher barriers for voters. It’s shameful.”
The Governor’s move has a disproportionate impact on the Black and Latinx communities due to their concentration in the state’s most populous metro areas of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Elderly, sick, and disabled voters—the only categories of persons eligible to vote absentee within Texas—simply cannot risk deadly exposure to COVID-19 and must rely on mail or drop off options to cast their ballot.
“As many states are expanding ballot drop off options to ensure voter confidence this year, it is vile to see Texas’s attempts to do the opposite,” said Celina Stewart, senior director of advocacy and litigation for the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Many voters are understandably nervous that their mailed ballots may be delayed—especially in a state like Texas, where ballots must be received, not postmarked, on Election Day. This eleventh-hour attempt to disenfranchise voters is despicable. Drop boxes and drop-off locations where voters can safely hand deliver their ballots are the best solution to reassure voters that their ballots will count.”
In larger counties like Harris County, home to Houston and 4.7 million residents, there are currently 12 drop off locations spread out over roughly 1,700 square miles. Abbott’s order would force the removal of 11 of those locations. Harris County is the third most populous county in the United States. But the move also harms spacious rural counties, like Brewster County on the Southern border, which at 6,184 square miles, is more expansive than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
“Governor Abbott’s Executive Order to limit drop box locations reeks of the continued voter suppression and rigging of voter turnout by Republicans against all Texans in a pandemic,” said Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., general counsel, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “It is disgraceful, unlawful and the worst type of third world politics or something that you would expect in a country like Russia or China, not Texas or the United States. Today, LULAC announces that once again we are suing the Governor and the Republican establishment to protect the rights of every Texan to vote. Every fair-minded American who respects the Constitution should honor the right of all citizens to have their voice heard. Shame on Texas if it stands by and allows this to happen.”
The League of Women Voters and partners are represented by Campaign Legal Center (CLC).
“Our most important right as Americans is the right to vote and election officials at the state level should ensure that every eligible citizen has a safe and convenient way to vote in this election,” said Trevor Potter, president at Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and a former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Texas is already one of the hardest places in America to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now Texas Governor Greg Abbott is intent on making it harder with an eleventh-hour change that will result in mass confusion and voter suppression. Election officials should be working to make absentee voting more accessible, not less.”
Texas voters who meet absentee ballot criteria may request a ballot until October 23. Voted ballots must be received by 7pm on Election Day in order to be counted. Voters are encouraged to visit VOTE411.org for more details.