Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an announcement Thursday that will reduce the number of mailed polling sites in the state to one per county. Abbott said the change “will enhance the safety of voting in Texas.”
The new rule, which will go into effect on Friday, will allow polling observers to monitor activity at landing sites. CBS Dallas / Fort Worth mentioned.
“The state of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” the station stated. “As we work to preserve Texas’ ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be extra careful to enforce poll safety protocols across the state. These enhanced safety protocols will ensure greater transparency and help stop attempts at illegal voting.”
While the declaration doesn’t do much for counties like Tarrant and Denton, it has a major impact on counties with larger populations. The Associated Press reported that Harris County, which includes Houston and the third largest county in the United States, will lose 11 delivery locations.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner criticized the decision. “When I grew up, I was transported in buses over 20 miles as a student in my first full-fledged class at Klein High School. Because of the governor’s decision today, I will now have to go further to drop the absentee vote and make sure that my vote counted,” he said. Turner described the decision to reduce the number of sites as a “direct attempt to suppress the electorate,” and said: “We must focus on making voting easier and stop trying to create obstacles and distractions with unfounded allegations of voter fraud.”
In a press release, the president of the Texas Democratic Party, Gilberto Hinojosa, described the decision as a failed attempt to change voting rules “at the last minute”. In a statement to CBS News, an official in the Texas Democratic Party confirmed that a lawsuit was underway. The Texas Civil Liberties Union strongly condemned the matter in a statement, describing Abbott’s decision as “yet another disguised attempt to disrupt the vote.”
Texas is one of the only states that did not expand mail voting during the coronavirus pandemic, despite attempts by Democrats to expand access to mail voting in the state. To be eligible to vote by mail, you must be 65 or over, disabled, out of county on election day and early voting period, or in prison but otherwise eligible.
In July, Abbott extended the early voting period by six days. Texas Republican Party Chairman Ellen West and other notable Republicans from Texas filed a lawsuit against Abbott in September over the decision, and the case was not adjudicated by the Texas Supreme Court.
When Abbott expanded early voting in July, he said it was part of a strategy “to keep Texas able to vote in a way that also reduces the spread of the virus.” He said allowing people to mail ballot papers by hand gives people “more flexibility” and protects people from COVID-19.
New Texas coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are no longer on a downward trend, according to the Texas Department of Health Services.
Other states that usually require an excuse to vote by mail, such as Kentucky, New York and New Hampshire, allow voters to use the Coronavirus as an excuse. President Trump has repeatedly argued that expanding voting by mail would lead to fraud, although election experts say cases of fraud are extremely rare.
So what does this mean for the larger counties? Many voters will have to travel long distances to drop ballots mailed, which can have a disproportionate effect on low-income or voters of color. Harris County contains approximately 25% of the state’s black population. Lena Hidalgo, Harris County Judge, chirpHarris County is bigger than Rhode Island, and we’re supposed to have one site? This isn’t security, it’s funnel.
Local scribes announced which sites would remain open. The deadline for an absentee ballot application in Texas is October 23, and ballots must be mailed to November 3 and received by 5 PM on November 4 in order to count for most voters.