Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is facing two separate federal lawsuits over his executive order that restricts ballot boxes to one per county in the sprawling state, a move opponents argue harms the nation’s most vulnerable voters during the coronavirus pandemic and suppresses the vote.
Ahead of the start of early voting in Texas on October 13, Abbott’s Thursday order requires large counties regardless of population and area to limit their number of drop-off locations for mail-in ballots to one. The challenges were filed in the Western District of Texas.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic and some voters’ concerns about voting in-person, requests for absentee and mail-in ballots have increased across the US. In Texas, state Republicans have successfully blocked Democrats’ attempts to expand mail-in voting, citing voter fraud. While rare instances of voter fraud from mail-in ballots do occur, it is nowhere near a widespread problem in the US election system.
In a complaint filed late Thursday against Abbott’s order, the Campaign Legal Center sued on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, its Texas chapter, the League of Women Voters of Texas, and two individuals, alleging that the last-minute change will cause confusion for voters.
The complaint argues that the governor’s order forces Texas absentee voters – older voters, and voters with disabilities – to risk exposure to Covid-19, travel farther distances, and face longer waits.
Among the plaintiffs is an 82-year-old man from Cypress, Texas, whose nearest drop box in Harris County will now be 36 miles away, a nearly hour and a half round trip, the suit alleges.
“For Texas’ absentee voters—including those who had already requested or received their absentee ballot with the expectation that they would be able to use one of many drop-off locations offered by their county—the effect of the October 1 order is to unreasonably burden their ability to vote,” the suit states.