U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled against Texas Republicans’ request to toss out nearly 127,000 ballots cast in drive-thru voting centers throughout city.
On Monday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen rejected a GOP-led campaign to invalidate nearly 127,000 votes submitted in Houston-area drive-thru polling centers. [Featured image via Shutterstock]
Since early voting began in Texas on October 13, Houston has had 10 drive-thru voting centers around the city under the approval of the Texas Secretary of State’s office for registered voters to submit their ballots as a safe and socially-distanced alternative to other polling sites.
During the primary runoff election in July, Houston deployed the same drive-thru voting system without controversy.
Over 120,000 voters submitted their ballots in the city’s drive-thru voting centers – accounting for nearly 10% of early voters.
Last week, on October 27, Texas Republicans filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of Houston’s drive-thru voting under the Texas Election Code. The campaign, lead by Steven Hotze, Sharon Hemphill, Wendell Champion, and Steve Toth, sought to nullify the 127,000 votes that had been casted in such voting centers.
Drive-thru voting, as an extension of curbside voting, they argued, should solely be reserved for the sick, disabled, and/or elderly. Furthermore, the group requested that “all memory cards from the ten (10) drive-thru voting locations be secured and not entered or downloaded into the Tally machine,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs filed their first challenge on October 12, bringing their case to the Texas Supreme Court on November 1, as well as to a federal district court as late as yesterday, November 2 – a day before Election Day.
On Sunday, November 1, the Texas Supreme Court swiftly denied the request without an order or opinion.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, nominated by President George W. Bush, rejected the plaintiffs’ request to throw out the ballots, arguing that Texas Election Code allows for early drive-thru voting:
“If the plaintiffs had standing, the Court would have found that the continuation of drive-thru voting on Election Day violates the Texas Election Code,” wrote Hanen.
The plaintiffs appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Late Monday, the State Republicans attempted to revise their petition, requesting solely that drive-thru voting locations be shut down on Election Day. Before midnight, the appeal was denied.
Drive-thru voting will be permitted in Harris County on Election Day, but will be limited to one location at the Toyota Center. The decision to close 9 of the other drive-thru voting centers was made by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins out of precaution:
“This evening, Judge Hanen issued his order upholding drive-thru voting during the Early Voting period,” wrote Hollins on Twitter. “He also stated his view that the tents that house most of the drive-thru voting centers would not qualify as ‘buildings,’ which are required for Election Day polling places.”
“My job is to protect the right to vote for all Harris County voters, and that includes those who are going to vote on Election Day. I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk.”