AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting counties to one mail-in ballot drop-off location in a Tuesday evening ruling that overturned two lower courts.
The unanimous ruling dissolved an injunction, issued by a Democratic District Court judge in Travis County, that sought to bar enforcement of Abbott’s limit of drop-off locations as an impermissible burden on voting rights.
The all-Republican court determined that while Abbott restricted voters to one site per county to deliver their completed ballots, the governor actually had expanded voting opportunities.
Under Texas law, voters can hand deliver mail-in ballots only on Election Day, but Abbott on July 27 used his emergency powers during the pandemic to allow deliveries for more than five weeks before Nov. 3, the court said.
On Oct. 1, Abbott amended the order to shut down multiple drop sites, forcing Travis County to close three downtown locations one day after they had opened.
“In the end, the plaintiffs’ complaint is that the Governor ultimately decided not to increase their voting options quite as much as he initially announced,” the court said in an unsigned opinion.
The Texas Democratic Party accused the court’s GOP justices of bending the law to secure Republican political power, and District Judge Amy Clark Meachum, the party’s candidate for chief justice criticized the ruling.
“The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court is once again placing its party’s political interest ahead of public health, fundamental fairness and common sense,” Meachum said.
One day after Abbott issued his one-site limit, Common Cause Texas and the Anti-Defamation League sued, arguing that it created an unacceptable burden on voting rights, particularly for a population vulnerable to COVID-19.
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, a Democrat, also criticized the amended order, saying the multiple drop-off sites were intended to make it safer and more convenient for elderly and disabled voters to deliver ballots amid fears of Postal Service inefficiency and a dangerous pandemic
©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Texas