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Verdicts & Settlements

Harris County, Houston Voters Safe After Courts Block Texas Republicans’ Attempts at Voter Suppression

— November 3, 2020

An attorney for the conservative plaintiffs all but admitted the motive was voter suppression, saying that if Harris County–home of Houston–votes for Biden, then the whole of Texas may turn blue.

A federal judge has dismissed an attempt by Texas Republicans to invalidate more than 100,000 ballots cast at drive-through voting locations in and around Harris County.

According to CNBC, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said the plaintiffs lacked the necessary legal standing to file the lawsuit.

Hanen’s decision, adds CNBC, is “based on the legal precept” that any party filing suit first demonstrate that they were harmed by a relevant action.

Shortly after Hanen’s ruling went public on Monday, Republican agents said they would appeal the decision. That appeal, lodged with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, requested that a panel of appellate judges grant an injunction against drive-through voting on Election Day.

Jared Woodfill, an attorney for the plaintiffs, made it clear that the lawsuit is all about voter suppression. Shortly after Hanen’s ruling, Woodfill said that he would “immediately” appeal.

“If Harris County goes against Trump,” Woodfill said, “then we could lose Texas.”

“And if we lose Texas,” he continued, “then we lose the national election. As far as I’m concerned, this is ground zero.”

If approved, the conservative coalition’s move would have barred drive-through voting mere hours before Texas’s general election is set to begin.

An absentee ballot for U.S. servicepeople. Image via: (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor Gordnier). Public domain.

Part of the plaintiffs’ argument was based on the premise that Texas law requires votes to be held inside a building. While drive-through voting locations would see voters pass their ballots off inside of tents designed to accommodate cars, SUVs, and motorcycles, Republicans questioned whether tents or other temporary constructions can legally be considered buildings.

“By indiscriminately encouraging and allowing any and all Harris County registered voters to cast their ballots via curbside drive-thru voting, Defendant is violating both federal and state law, and Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if such […] action is not stopped,” the federal suit said.

However, the three-judge panel quickly denied the request.

Although drive-through voting will still be allowed, the court’s affirmation may not make much of a difference to voters—the Texas Tribune notes that Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins has already announced that he will close nine of the county’s ten planned drive-through voting locations.

Hollins made his decision before the 5th Circuit made theirs, saying he wanted to ensure that any and all future ballots cast would still be counted, regardless of what the appellate panel may have decided.

“My job is to protect the right to vote for all Harris County voters, and that includes those who are going to vote on Election Day,” Hollins wrote on Twitter. “I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk.”

Despite his decision to pre-emptively close drive-through voting locations, Hollins has since praised Hanen and the appellate court’s decisions.

“We have followed election code to a ‘T.’ We worked with the secretary of state to introduce drive-thru voting,” Hollins wrote online. “We know that it is legal, in addition to being safe and convenient.”


Judge rejects GOP bid to toss 127,000 drive-thru ballots in Harris County, Texas

Nearly 127,000 Harris County drive-thru votes appear safe after federal judge rejects GOP-led Texas lawsuit

Texas Supreme Court rejects Republican-led effort to throw out nearly 127,000 Harris County votes

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