‘This isn’t security, it’s suppression’: Texas GOP thwarted in an attempt to suppress the vote

Long and Drawn Out / Sabrina Matthews / Megan Long

The Texas vote count has already surpassed the state’s totals for 2016, and Election Day is still ahead of us. Harris County, which includes Houston, is the third highest populated county in the US — and it is trending Democratic. As Republicans lose their iron grip on Texas, they are doing everything they can to throw out votes that could help Democrats win.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen rejected a lawsuit on November 2, filed by Republicans who tried to invalidate 127,000 ballots that had already been cast at drive-through voting locations. Conservatives claimed that drive-through voting is illegal and, “must be stopped.” But the Texas Supreme Court, made up of all Republican appointees, already denied their petition. Now a federal district court has also rejected the GOP case, on the eve of Election Day.

Chris Hollins was appointed as the Harris County clerk in June. Since then, he and Harris County elections officials have worked to expand voter access and to help everyone vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans have fought Hollins every step of the way.

On October 2, Texas’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation that each Texas county should have only one ballot drop-off box. Harris County had expanded the list of drop-off locations for Texas voters, but Abbot’s proclamation forced a court battle. In the end, a federal appeals court allowed drop-off points to be cut, forcing 2.4 million Harris County voters to use a single location.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called it, “just ridiculous.”

There have been more than a dozen attempts by Republicans to block access for the Texas vote. In August, the Harris County Republican Party and the Texas attorney successfully blocked Hollins’s plan to help voters during the pandemic by sending mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter.

In September, Republican politicians and party leaders attacked one of their own. They filed lawsuits to stop Republican Governor Abbott from starting early voting a week early, on Oct. 13. And they failed in that attempt.

Then the Harris County Republican Party and Republican officials petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to limit Harris County’s ballot drop-off locations to one. The lawsuit became moot when Governor Abbott used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for enacting his emergency powers — and installed that brand of suppression for the entire Texas vote.

But, for now, their last ditch effort has failed. Republicans legal argument to get 127,000 Texas votes thrown out seemed to boil down to ‘Don’t let the Democrats vote because they might win.’

“As Texas goes, so too will the rest of the country. As Harris County goes, so too will Texas,” read the GOP lawsuit. “If President Trump loses Texas, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for him to be reelected.”

Harris County Attorney Susan Hays, calls the lawsuit an act of “voter suppression…It’s nuts,” she told the New York Times. “Votes should count.”

This is Harris County’s first year with drive-through voting. The program was tested in a pilot program over the summer and approved unanimously by county commissioners. “Texas Election Code allows it,” Hollins pointed out. “The Secretary of State approved it, and 127,000 voters from all walks of life have used it.”

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