Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Photo: Tom Fox-Pool/Getty Images)

'Just Blatant Voter Suppression': Groups Sue to Stop GOP Texas Gov. From Eviscerating Ballot Drop-Off System

"Gov. Abbott's order takes healthy, reasonable, safe options away from some of this state's most vulnerable voters."

Jessica Corbett

In Texas—which has 38 electoral votes, the most of any swing state—rights groups filed a lawsuit Monday to block Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's recent move to limit drop-off locations for absentee ballots to just one per county during the sprawling state's early voting period.

As polling last week revealed a tight race in Texas between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden with just a month before Election Day, Abbott issued a proclamation to limit drop-off sites, which critics charge exceeds his authority, will make it unnecessarily difficult for Texans to vote during the Covid-19 pandemic, and will disproportionately impact Democratic counties.

The lawsuit (pdf) challenging Abbott's order was filed in the district court of Travis County by Common Cause Texas and the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions, who are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School and Dechert LLP. It comes ahead of the state's early voting period, which begins October 13.

"Many of the Texans who qualify to vote absentee have disabilities and are elderly, and they rely on public transportation," Common Cause Texas executive director Anthony Gutierrez explained Monday. "With only one drop-off site per county, these voters would face challenges in travel that might make it impossible for them to vote."

Gutierrez added that "the drop-off site limit will also make the one site in each country prone to lines and crowds, endangering voters' health."

"Gov. Abbott's order takes healthy, reasonable, safe options away from some of this state's most vulnerable voters," declared Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center's Voting Rights and Elections Program. "It should not stand."

Abbott issued his order to limit drop-off sites not only during a pandemic—which is expected to lead more Americans to vote early in-person or by mail—but also in the midst of U.S. Postal Service mail delivery delays due to controversial changes implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, which have generated voter concerns about mailed ballots being counted.

Texans may vote by mail if they are age 65 or older; have an illness or physical condition that prevents them from appearing at the polls; will be outside their home county during early voting and on Election Day; or they are in jail but otherwise eligible to vote. Thanks to a Texas Supreme Court ruling this year, those with physical conditions putting them at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 may vote by mail.

"The state of Texas should be working to ensure safe and accessible voting for all Texans," said Cheryl Drazin, vice president of the ADL's Central Division. "The governor's order does the opposite. Limiting the number of drop-off sites available to absentee voters reduces the options Texans have to participate in the 2020 election without risking their health."

The complaint claims that Abbott's proclamation "exceeds the governor's authority and violates the Texas Constitution—in addition to being inconsistent with principles of efficient election administration and fundamental fairness to all Texas voters." It points out that state law designates the county clerk as the official with the power to make decisions about early voting.

"The governor doesn't have the legal authority to limit drop-off sites for absentee ballots," Dechert LLP counsel Lindsey Cohan said. "It's up to each county's clerk to decide how many drop-off sites the county needs and where they should be placed."

As the rights groups filed suit, the Dallas Morning News reported Monday that with Trump "hamstrung by a bout with Covid-19, Joe Biden is eyeing opportunity in Texas and doing something no Democratic nominee has done in decades: making a serious push in the state."

"The former vice president hasn't scheduled a visit so far. But he has quietly reserved $5.8 million for an advertising blitz through the final four weeks, starting Tuesday," the newspaper noted. Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said that "it's a hell of a lot more than anybody else ever spent, that's for sure."

The news came after a Sunday op-ed in the Washington Post by former Democratic presidential primary rival and Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who has since endorsed Biden, and Tory Gavito, president and co-founder of Way to Win and the former executive director of the Texas Future Project.

Noting the state's stockpile of electoral votes, O'Rourke and Gavito wrote that "Joe Biden can end the election on election night. All it takes is an investment in Texas. Texas is the state where big, late money and showing up could put an end to the suspense about whether President Trump will concede defeat."

"Given the high stakes in the presidential election and strategic opportunity in Texas, Biden has no better investment than turning out voters in the Lone Star State," the pair added. "This is not the cycle for Democrats to wonder if Texas is going to flip. This is the election to make it flip—and end the national nightmare on election night."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·

'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·

To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo