AUSTIN, TX—Today, the League of Women Voters of Texas, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), LULAC Texas, and two individual voters filed a lawsuit against Texas Governor Abbott in response to his proclamation that would dramatically limit options for Texas voters seeking to hand-deliver their completed absentee ballots for this fall’s election. In an order set to take effect today, Abbott announced on Thursday that each of Texas’s 254 counties can only have one absentee drop off location, regardless of geographic size or population.
“To limit ballot drop off locations this close to the election—and as voting has already begun—is voter suppression, plain and simple,” said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas. “In a presidential election year with massive voter interest during a deadly pandemic, Texas should be focused on expanding safe voting options this year. But instead of protecting voters and ensuring their safe access to the ballot, our state has erected new barriers for voters. It’s shameful.”
The Governor’s move has a disproportionate impact on the Black and Latinx communities due to their concentration in the state’s most populous metro areas of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth. Elderly, sick, and disabled voters—the only categories of persons eligible to vote absentee in Texas—simply cannot risk deadly exposure to COVID-19 and must rely on mail or drop-off options to cast their ballot.
In larger counties like Harris County, home to Houston and 4.7 million residents, there are currently 12 drop off locations spread out over roughly 1,700 square miles. Abbott’s order would force the removal of 11 of those locations. Harris County is the third most populous county in the United States. But the move also harms spacious rural counties, like Brewster County on the Southern border, which at 6,184 square miles, is more expansive than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.
“I am deeply disappointed by Governor Abbott’s proclamation,” said MaryJane Mudd, president, League of Women Voters of Houston. “Harris County is larger than Rhode Island, Montana and Maine combined, yet now we must reduce our drop-off locations for completed mail ballots from 12 to one. Many of the 11 drop-off spots were located in areas with underserved populations. Instead of helping U.S. citizens exercise their right to vote, he has made it harder – and in the middle of a pandemic.”
"Governor Abbott's last minute Executive Order limiting Drop Boxes to one in every county, will severely restrict the options people with disabilities have to vote during COVID 19" said Bob Kafka, REV UP Texas CoCordinator. REV UP Texas is a nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of people with disabilities and our allies who work to become more involved in electoral politics. As a statewide organization, they strive to empower over 6 million Texans with disabilities to register, educate ourselves and most importantly, to vote.
The League of Women Voters and partners are represented by Campaign Legal Center.
Call Governor Abbott and tell him to put the safety of all Texans first! The Governor's Office contact numbers are:
- (800) 843-5789 - Information and Referral Hotline (for Texas callers)
- (512) 463-1782 - Information and Referral and Opinion Hotline (for Austin, Texas and out-of-state callers)
- (512) 463-2000 - Office of the Governor Main Switchboard (office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST)
- Call 711 for Relay Texas - Citizen's Assistance Telecommunications Device, if you are using a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD)
Email Governor Abbott at https://gov.texas.gov/contact
Key Elements of Governor Abbott's proclamation:
- It confirms that voters have extended time to hand deliver a marked mail ballot to the early voting clerk’s office: hand delivery is allowed prior to and including on election day;
- However, it limits the place for hand-delivery to a single location within the county to be publicly designated by the early voting clerk for the return of marked mail ballots.
- It also specifies that early voting clerks must allow 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, including the presentation of an acceptable form of identification.
- Finally, any marked mail ballot delivered in person to the early voting clerk’s office prior to October 2, 2020, is not affected by this proclamation.
The League of Women Voters also urges voters to make a plan to vote safely:
- If eligible, vote by mail. The deadline is October 23. Must be delivered, not postmarked by 10/23/20/
- Vote early - October 13 - 30.
- Vote during non-peak hours on election day
For more information on safe voting visit the League's Voting & Coronavirus webpage.
Texas voters who meet absentee ballot criteria may request a ballot until October 23. Voted ballots must be received by 7pm on Election Day in order to be counted. Voters are encouraged to visit VOTE411.org for more details.
League to which this content belongs:Texas