Several voter rights groups joined two Texas voters Thursday in filing a lawsuit against governor Greg Abbott after the governor issued an executive order, which will limit each Texas county to a single ballot drop-off location.
The governor’s order, also issued on Thursday, purports to enhance ballot security by requiring all in-person delivery of mail and absentee ballots to a single early voting clerk’s office location. Governor Abbott said in a statement that, “These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.” The result is that large counties like Harris, where the city of Houston is located, will be reduced from eleven early voting drop-off locations down to one. Harris County is 1700 square miles in area, larger than the state of Rhode Island.
That same day the Texas and National Leagues of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Women Voters, and two Texas citizens filed a lawsuit in federal district court, claiming the governor’s order violates their fundamental right to vote under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs also allege that the order violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as the most populous counties in the state have high percentages of Latino residents, and that “Latino voters are particularly susceptible to contracting and dying from COVID-19.” Forcing Latino voters to congregate at a single polling location during the pandemic increases their risk. This order, therefore, abridges their right to vote on the basis of their race, as they must decide between mailing their ballots, which may result in unreasonable postal delays or subjecting themselves to potential exposure to Covid-19 by dropping off their ballots in person.
Grace Chimine, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, called the governor’s order “voter suppression, plain and simple,” while Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., general counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the order “reeks” of voter suppression and is “something that you would expect in a country like Russia or China, not Texas or the United States.”