US Republican activists had requested that more than 125,000 ballot papers be thrown away at transit locations.
The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday turned down a Republican-led petition that cast nearly 127,000 ballots that were cast in drive-through elections in the Houston area.
The state’s all-republican Supreme Court denied GOP activists and candidates’ applications without explaining its decision. Efforts to dump Harris County’s ballot papers are due to begin during a hearing in a United States federal court on Monday.
“We are pleased that the Texas Supreme Court has recognized their arguments that thoroughfare is illegal,” said Susan Hays, an attorney for the Harris County Clerk’s Office. “Lawsuits filed in the middle of an election to disrupt the election should be promptly rejected.”
Conservative Texas activists have opposed expanded electoral access in Harris County, where a record 1.4 million early votes have been cast. The county is the country’s third largest and most important battlefield in Texas, where President Donald Trump and Republicans have been preparing for the next Tuesday election for decades.
US District Judge Andrew Hanen is expected to rule on the same issue on Monday. Hanen’s decision to hear arguments on the sidelines of Election Day on November 3rd drew the attention of electoral activists. The Texas Supreme Court also dismissed a nearly identical lawsuit last month.
A senior voter uses the drive-through option to vote from his car in Richardson, Texas [LM Otero/AP Photo]Jared Woodfill, a Republican attorney who brought the state and federal cases, said Sunday his focus was on the Hanen hearing.
“We hope he will prevent this illegal form of voting from continuing,” said Woodfill.
Conservative GOP activists have filed a number of lawsuits over measures to expand choice during the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges did not concern Trump’s campaign.
Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016, but polls have shown that Democrat Joe Biden is still within reach in the largest red state in the United States. Democrats also need to move nine seats to regain a majority in the Texas House for the first time in 20 years and have aggressively targeted several races in Harris County.
Harris County has offered 10 drive-through locations where its nearly five million residents can cast ballots in their cars instead of going to polling stations. The accommodation is intended to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
Woodfill, a former Harris County GOP chairman, argued that Texas’s electoral law does not provide explicit permissions for drive-through voting and that only voters who need assistance are eligible to cast a roadside vote.
Woodfill’s lawsuit also found that all but one of the transit centers had been established “in democratic areas of the county”. More than 40 percent of Harris County’s residents are Latinos, and about one in five residents are black.
Counting the drive-through votes, Woodfill said, would “question the integrity and legality of a federal election.”
The Texas Supreme Court dismissed an identical lawsuit last month. Harris County Administrator Chris Hollins, who runs the county elections, had asked Republican Governor Greg Abbott to confirm that the passageways were legal, but received no response.
Texas is one of only five states not to allow widespread mail-in voting this year during the coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 18,000 people nationwide. Abbott instead extended the early voting one week, and that extra time helped Texas surpass its 2016 total votes even ahead of Tuesday’s election.
More than 9.7 million people have voted early in Texas, where voter turnout is typically among the lowest in the country. Some campaign experts predict the turnout could exceed 12 million in Texas, and Harris County officials have taken more steps than most to widen access to voting.
The county tripled the number of polling stations and had eight locations last week that stayed open 24 hours.