A federal judge on Monday rejected a request by a conservative activist and three Republican candidates Nearly 127,000 votes were cast Among the drive-through polling sites in Texas’ most populous county, it is mostly Democratic.
George W. Bush-appointed U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling follows two previous decisions by the All-Republican Texas Supreme Court Rejecting such attempts Republicans challenging the authenticity of drive-through voting in Harris County. Hanen’s ruling clears the way for counting early voting drive-through ballots on election day.
Hanen said in his judgment from the bench that he dismissed the case for narrow reasons because the plaintiffs did not show that they would be harmed if the drive-through ballots were counted. However, he noted that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals might think differently when it comes to cases. Republicans are appealing the decision.
Hanen said he would have rejected the request to throw away the votes already cast if he had ruled on the big issues in the case. Hanen said Harris County’s drive-through polling stations will be closed for Election Day because the tents used for the sites are not eligible to vote inside the “building”. A requirement under state election law.
“If I were to vote tomorrow … I would not vote in a drive-thru with my concern that it would not be illegal,” he said. “I’m going to order the county to maintain all drive-through voting records … if the 5th circuit does not agree.”
Ten percent of Harris County’s individual early voters cast their ballots in the county’s 10 drive-through seats. Voter repression is the monumental disenfranchisement of voters in a presidential election that has been besieged by struggles over voter oppression and fraud.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said after hearing that the county’s 10 drive-through locations will be open Tuesday.
The jury ruled in favor of plaintiff, county, and several other Texas and national voting rights and political groups in Harris County to argue that the drive-through program is legal under Texas election law.
The latest challenge to drive-through voting is the last-minute lawsuit filed by Conservative Steven Hodge in Houston federal court last week, as well as the state rep. Steve Toth, Congress candidate Wendell Champion and legal candidate Sharon Hemphill, all Harris County Republicans.
Voting in Texas
When is the last day to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in the 2020 general election is October 5. Check if you are present Register to vote here. If not, you will need to fill out and submit an application Request here Or Download here.
When can I vote?
Pre-voting for the 2020 general election will run from October 13 to October 30. Voters can cast ballots at any polling station in the county where the vote was recorded during the early voting. Election Day November 3.
How is voting different due to the epidemic?
Generally, there are guidelines for social distance and regular cleaning of polling places. Many counties offer ballot marking equipment so voters avoid contact with election equipment. Poll workers are likely to wear face masks and other protective equipment, but voters are not required to wear masks.
How do I know if I am eligible to vote by mail?
Texas is one of the few states where mail-in voting is not open to any voter concerned about obtaining COVID-19 at the polling station. You can find eligibility requirements and review other questions about it Voting by mail here.
Are polling stations the same on election day during early voting?
Not always. You want to check for open polling locations Your local election office Before you vote. Additionally, you can verify with your county election office whether polling day voting is restricted to your designated precinct or whether you can cast your ballot at any polling station.
Can I still vote if I have COVID-19?
Yes. If you suffer from or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, consider requesting an emergency mail-in ballot or using curbside voting. Contact Your county election office For more details about the two options.
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Lawyer and former Harris County GOP chair Jared Woodfill is representing the plaintiffs. He was one of the many Republicans who fought for justice – Many of them are rooted in Harris County – led to a fiercely contested election on Tuesday.
The Houston Democrats began a strong effort to make voting as easy as possible, triple the number of polling stations on early and election day, and increase the county election budget from $ 4 million in 2016 to $ 33 million this fall. They rejected GOP’s claims that facilitating voting would lead to widespread inherent risks of voter fraud.
Republican leaders and activists worked furiously at the levers of power Lawsuits, Audience without evidence of voter fraud and official State directives In their bid Limit voter choices During the epidemic.
“If President Trump loses Texas, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to re-elect him,” Woodfill said in another lawsuit. “When Harris County goes, so does Texas.”
Polling places, hotspots and candidates in a drive-through challenge Already seeking to declare thousands of votes cast illegally, the county’s drive-through program argues that curbside voting is an extension that is only available to disabled or sick voters under state election law.
Texas Electoral Act, which has long been available for curbside voting, requires workers at each polling station to provide onsite curbside ballots to voters who “cannot physically enter the polling station without personal assistance or the possibility of damaging voter health.” They argue that the drive-through program extends voting beyond what the Texas Legislature allows and uses the pandemic as an excuse.
The Harris County Clerk’s Office argues that its drive-through locations are different from specialized polling stations and attached carbide spots and may therefore be accessible to all voters. The Texas Secretary of State’s Office approved the drive-through voting, which was filed by the clerk in the Supreme Court in a previous lawsuit. State Chief Electoral Officer Keith Ingram told a court hearing in another case that drive-through voting was “legally OK, a creative process”, according to court transcripts.
Although the court ruled that the polling stations violated state election law, county officials argued that Texas law and court precedents should not penalize voters for the mistakes of election officials and that votes are still valid. Hanen seemed to agree with this attitude, saying, “I do not consider it illegal to vote against a place of voting.”
After losing twice in state courts, Hodge and candidates argued in a federal court hearing Monday that Harris County’s drive-through voting violated the U.S. Constitution and therefore the votes should be considered invalid.
The lawsuit seeks to expand voting access during the pandemic against Republicans, with Democrats and voting rights groups across the country pushing for legal restrictions on voting options.
Over the weekend, several voting rights and political groups joined the contest, hoping to file briefings before Hanen, who supports the legitimacy of the vote, and participate in the lawsuit. Some parties include the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas; Texas-based NAACP; Texas Women’s League of Voters; Former Republican House Speaker Joe Strauss; Campaign of Texas Democratic U.S. Senate candidate MJ Heger; And national democratic campaigns.
Michelle Ferman and Emma Platoff contributed to this report
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