With the 2020 general election closing in, and mail-in balloting already under way, Gov. Greg Abbott has thrown a big monkey wrench into the gears for voters in urban counties.
Even after county election officials have set up drop sites for people with mail-in ballots to deposit them, Abbott has declared that each of Texas’ 254 counties can have just one drop-off spot.
That’s right – one.
Most of the state’s rural counties, with sparser populations, were only planning on one site. It’s not a problem.
But for urban counties, with hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people, it is.
Travis County, with the capital city of Austin, already has four drop-off sites, and has been advertising them as available. They are already being used.
Harris County, the state’s most populous county, where Houston is, has set up 11. And advertised them – to the county’s 4.7 million people and 2.4 million voters, over 1,777 square miles.
Abbott says he’s made the change for election security.
Criticism of Abbott’s order, from newspaper editorials, and Democrats, seeing an effort to undercut growing Democratic power in big cities, charge it’s a partisan deal, to benefit Abbott’s Republican Party, in what could be a much tighter election than they had anticipated.
“Shame on Abbott for shuttering ballot drop sites,” was the headline on the editorial in The Austin American-Statesman.
“Abbott’s order closing ballot drop-off sites is voter suppression — plain and simple,” says a Houston Chronicle editorial.
The 2020 election process is already tumultuous. So far, its details, changed directions, and last-minute whims of elected leaders, have served as a full-employment exercise for a bunch of politicians, party officials, lawyers and judges.
Plus, the public servants in the state’s more populous counties, who have to manage the people and infrastructure to actually carry out the election, are pulling out their hair in large clumps.
The Chronicle notes “there is no proof that shutting down drop-off sites will do anything to protect the integrity of the election.
“If anything, the Harris County collection sites make voting even more secure, as they require voters to deliver their own ballots, sign in, speak with an assistant clerk and provide identification.
“Abbott’s order will only make it harder and riskier for vulnerable Texans — the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — to cast ballots amid the pandemic,” the Chronicle editorial said.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, whose job it is to carry out the election, said Abbott’s late-breaking mandate “at this point harms voters and will result in widespread confusion and voter suppression.
“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,” Hollins said.
Abbott’s order may have been an attempt to stave off criticism from some of his Republican critics.
` They had objected to his declaration several weeks ago, adding six days to the early voting period by moving the opening date from Oct. 19 to Oct. 13.
The Chronicle noted that “there is no proof that shutting down drop-off sites will do anything to protect the integrity of the election. If anything, the Harris County collection sites make voting even more secure, as they require voters to deliver their own ballots, sign in, speak with an assistant clerk and provide identification.”
Attorneys also pointed out that Abbott was making a major change to election procedures just weeks away from an election — an action the state and its attorneys argued was improper in a separate federal lawsuit over straight-ticket voting.
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Several Texas politicians offered get-well wishes to Donald and Melania Trump since they caught the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Most were prayers and concerns and that sort of stuff. But a few couldn’t resist some political torque. Some excerpts:
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler:
“I’m so sorry that you have the Chinese Virus. May God bless you through this time.”
MJ Hegar, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate:
“I’m wishing the President, the First Lady, and all Americans impacted by this virus a full and speedy recovery. Please take this virus seriously. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.”
Texas GOP Chair Allen West:
“Angela and I lift you both up in prayer for strength and healing from the COVID-19 virus. . . . Get better y’all we have a country to save from the progressive socialist left.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin:
“Though the President has apparently fallen victim to his own failings, I wish him and the First Lady a speedy recovery and that the experience causes him to stop attacking science and begin consistently urging all his supporters to stop spreading by masking + social distancing.”