Texas Supreme Court temporarily reinstates ban on multiple drop-off sites for mail-in ballots
© WikiMedia (Joe Mabel)
Texas Supreme Court temporarily reinstates ban on multiple drop-off sites for mail-in ballots

The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday temporarily reinstated Governor Greg Abbott’s ban on multiple drop-off sites for mail-in ballots. The ban will remain effective until the Texas Supreme Court fully resolves challenges to Abbott’s ban.

This new order stems from several cases over the governor’s order. Abbott appealed To the Texas Supreme Court from a Texas appeals court’s decision Friday that struck down the order. Additionally, a recent federal appeals court case issued a temporary stay on the governor’s order.

The order, which Abbott promulgated on October 1, allows each Texas county to have only one ballot drop-off location despite county size or population. In promulgating the order, the governor cited safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic:

WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on March 13, 2020, certifying under Section 418.014 of the Texas Government Code that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) poses an imminent threat of disaster for all counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, in each subsequent month effective through today, I have renewed the disaster declaration for all Texas counties; and

WHEREAS, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, Dr. John Hellerstedt, has determined that COVID-19 continues to represent a public health disaster within the meaning of Chapter 81 of the Texas Health and Safety Code; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to legislative authorization under Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code, I have issued executive orders, proclamations, and suspensions of Texas laws in response to the COVID-19 disaster, aimed at using the least restrictive means available to protect the health and safety of Texans and ensure an effective response to this disaster…I further suspend Section 86.006(a-1) of the Texas Election Code, for any election ordered or authorized to occur on November 3, 2020, to the extent necessary to allow a voter to deliver a marked mail ballot in person to the early voting clerk’s office prior to and including on election day; provided, however, that beginning on October 2, 2020, this suspension applies only when:

(1) the voter delivers the marked mail ballot at a single early voting clerk’s office location that is publicly designated by the early voting clerk for the return of marked mail ballots under Section 86.006(a-1) and this suspension; and

(2) the early voting clerk allows poll watchers the opportunity to observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk’s office location related to the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot pursuant to Section 86.006(a-1) and this suspension, including the presentation of an acceptable form of identification described by Section 63.0101 of the Election Code by the voter.

Texas is not the only state to face controversies over ballot drop-box locations. A federal appeals court held Ohio to a one ballot drop-off location per county limit. However, not all federal courts have enforced drop-box location limits. A federal court dismissed the Trump administration’s suit seeking limits over Pennsylvania drop-boxes in early October.