Progressive groups teamed up to file a second lawsuit on Monday in an effort to stop Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) new policy that limits ballot drop-off locations in each county.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Austin, Southwest and Texoma Regions, Common Cause Texas and a Texas voter filed a lawsuit after Abbott announced last week that each county could have a maximum of one drop-off site for absentee ballots during the early voting period, which is slated to start on Oct. 13.
The plaintiffs call the order a “bait-and-switch,” saying the “eleventh hour” change about a month ahead of the election “dramatically changes the applicable rules” during the coronavirus pandemic.
The progressive activists argue Abbott’s order exceeds his authority as county clerks determine how early voting is conducted. They said it also violates the state constitution because it “imposes an unconstitutional burden on voters’ right to vote,” especially in geographically large counties.
“It is consistent, however, with a broader effort by the State to make it more difficult for elderly, sick, and disabled Texans to cast ballots by mail,” the lawsuit alleges.
“The Proclamation forces voters eligible to vote by mail to choose between risking their health by voting in-person so that they have more assurance that their ballots will count, or protecting their health by attempting to vote by mail and risking the real possibility that their ballots will not count because of [U.S. Postal Service] delays,” it added.
The order came as delays in the Postal Service have raised concerns that mail-in ballots may not arrive in time to be counted.
Texas permits voters to vote absentee if they are 65 years or older, have an illness or disability, will be out of the country for early voting or Election Day or are in jail but would otherwise qualify for absentee voting.
Anthony Gutierrez, the executive director of Common Cause Texas, pointed out that “many” of the voters who qualify for absentee voting “rely on public transportation.”
“With only one drop-off site per county, these voters would face challenges in travel that might make it impossible for them to vote,” he said in a statement.
Abbott’s office said in a statement to The Hill that the order did not limit voting and instead “expanded access to voting,” as previous law permitted Texas voters to mail their ballots or vote in person only on Election Day.
“Because of COVID-19, the governor’s executive order increased the time period during which voters can submit their mail in ballot in person to include anytime leading up to Election Day,” the office said. “That time period did not exist under current law.”
The governor’s office added that the order only applies to those who want to submit mail-in ballots in person instead of through the mail.
“The additional time provided for those who want to submit their mail in ballot in person is sufficient to accommodate the limited number of people who have traditionally used that voting strategy,” the statement said.