Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an order on Thursday limiting ballot drop boxes to just one per county.
CNN reports that this greatly affects Harris County, the most populous county in Texas as it has to reduce its 12 drop-off locations to just one starting Friday. Travis County, which includes the traditionally Democratic leaning city of Austin, has to reduce its four drop off locations as well. A statement released by the governor’s office said that this move was to increase ballot security.
“The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said. “As we work to preserve Texans’ ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”
Democratic leaders in Texas have already begun calling the governor’s move what it is: voter suppression. Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top elected official, told CNN on Thursday “There is no reason for this decision to limit us to one drop-off location other than voter suppression.”
“If these leaders truly are doing right by you, why are they so afraid of you voting?” she added.
Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of Texas’s Democratic party, labeled the move a “blatant voter suppression tactic” in a press release, with voting rights organization Let America Vote releasing a statement similarly blasting the move.
“The governor is making it harder for people to vote in the middle of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 16,000 Texans,” the group’s statement read. “It is a shameful, blatant act of voter suppression that will disproportionately impact the large number of Black and Latinx voters in Texas’ biggest counties.”
In July, Abbot signed an order authorizing a six-day extension to early voting and for mail-in ballots to be hand delivered due to concerns surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In the months since, though, there have been moves in the state that undercut that order. A series of court orders last month added age limits to no-excuse absentee voting and halted applications for mail-in ballots from being sent in Harris County.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins feels that Gov. Abbot broke his word by adding these extensive obstacles to mail-in voting. “Going back on his word at this point harms voters and will result in widespread confusion and voter suppression. Many mail ballots have already been dropped off by voters across Harris County, and multiple drop-off locations have been advertised for weeks,” Hollins told CNN.
“Our office is more than willing to accommodate poll watchers at mail ballot drop-off locations. But to force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single drop-off location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous,” he added.
While Texas is a traditionally red state, Democrats believe the clusterfuck that is the Trump presidency has put the state into play. Polls have shown a close race between Biden and Trump in the state. A recent poll shows Trump having a narrow 3 point lead against Biden. In 2016, Trump won the state by 9 percentage points.
Republicans have undergone a concerted effort to instill doubt in the American public about the security and validity of the upcoming election. Abbott’s claim that this move is to hamper “illegal voting,” echoes the conspiratorial narrative the President has continually pushed in recent months. While there have been sporadic instances of voter fraud, there is no evidence that it occurs at the extreme level the Republican Party has continually alleged.
Simply put, I’m pretty sure the Republican Party is aware it’s selling an unappealing platform with a historically unlikable president who’s responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Since they’re incapable of presenting any cogent or worthwhile ideas, they do what white men have done since the dawn of time: rig the system so they can continually fail upwards.
What a country.