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Texas Voters Declare Disenfranchisement, Launch Lawsuits After Gov. Abbott Limits Drop-boxes to One Per County

Texas voters are suing Gov. Greg Abbott, claiming his decision to limit ballot drop-boxes to one per county could compromise the integrity of the upcoming general election.

The restrictions, notes CNN, were enacted by Gov. Abbott as part of two separate but similar executive orders.

Abbott’s most recent order—signed into effect scarcely a week before Texas begins its early voting period on October 13th—requires all counties, regardless of geographical size or population, to maintain but a single ballot drop-box each.

According to CNN, Gov. Abbott’s restrictions present a peculiar dilemma amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Texas’ Republican-dominated state legislature has succeeded in blocking their liberal counterparts from expanding opportunities for mail-in and absentee voting in the 2020 election.

However, Abbott’s critics have said that, between the restrictions on mail-in voting and drop-boxes, particularly vulnerable voters may be disenfranchised.

A 2016 image of a ballot drop box in Boulder County, Colorado. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user:pasa47 . (CCA-BY-2.0).

In a complaint lodged by the Campaign Legal Center on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the LULAC’s Texas chapter, the League of Women of Voters, and two individual Texas residents, the Center alleges that Gov. Abbott’s last-minute changes could cause confusion and undermine Texans’ ability to vote timely.

“For Texas’ absentee voters—including those who had already requested or received their absentee ballot with the expectation that they would be able to use one of the many drop-off locations offered by their county—the effect of the October 1 order is to unreasonably burden their ability to vote,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit further explains how several plaintiffs may be unduly burdened by Gov. Abbott’s order.

One of the complaint’s signatories, for instance, is an 82-year old man from Cypress—following Gov. Abbott’s executive orders, the octogenarian will now have to travel upwards of an one-and-a-half hours simply to cast a vote.

In that vein, the Campaign Legal Center has contended that Gov. Abbott’s orders will, in effect, disproportionately suppress the vote of under-privileged and less-mobile communities—including ethnic minorities, alongside people who may be at elevated risk for contracting a severe form of coronavirus and therefore wish to avoid voting in person.

“The impact of this eleventh-hour decisions (sic) is momentous, targets Texas’ most vulnerable voters—older voters, and voters with disabilities—and results in wild variations in access to absentee voting drop-off locations depending on the county a voter residents in,” the Campaign Legal Center and LULAC wrote in their complaint.  “It also results in predictable disproportionate impacts on minority communities that already hit hardest (sic) by the COVID-19 crisis.”

Abbott, though, has said he is simply trying to enhance ballots security and “(stop) attempts at illegal voting.” This in spite of the fact that electoral fraud has never been a widespread problem in the United States.

Along with the Campaign Legal Center, Gov. Abbott is also facing a separate lawsuit filed by the Texas Alliance for Retired Voters.

The Alliance’s complaint largely echoes the concerns of its counterpart, claiming that Gov. Abbott’s orders are, if nothing else, a blatant attempt at voter suppression—a claim echoed by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins.

“Ultimately,” Collins said, “anything that’s done to decrease voter convenience, to put obstacles in the way of the voter, is voter suppression (and) will lead to disenfranchisement.”

Texas, adds the Texas Tribune, is one of only a few states not allowing all voters to avail mail-in or absentee ballots during the pandemic.

Sources

Two Texas lawsuits challenge governor’s restrictions on ballot drop-off locations

Voters, voting rights groups sue Gov. Greg Abbott over order to close ballot drop-off locations

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