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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 23, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

National Recap: Texas Supreme Court denies petition to throw out 127,00 votes

The Texas Supreme Court denied a petition by a group of Republicans seeking to invalidate approximately 127,000 drive-thru votes. 

On Nov. 1, the Texas Supreme Court denied the petition to invalidate drive-thru votes in Harris County, the county in which Houston is located. As a result of the decision, the votes still count. This is the second time in recent weeks the all-Republican Supreme Court in Texas has blocked attempts to get rid of drive-thru voting in the county. The lawsuit contended that the 10 drive-thru voting sites in Houston are operating illegally and arranged in locations that favor Democrats, according to The New York Times.

The drive-thru voting system was put in place for the first time this year by Chris Hollins, the Harris County clerk. Approximately 127,000 voters have cast ballots at the drive-thru sites, and the number could grow to more than 135,000 through Election Day on Nov. 3, said Susan Hays, a lawyer for Harris County. She also equated the suit to voter suppression, according to The New York Times.

Urban Democratic communities, like Houston, have seen larger voter turnouts. Harris County increased its number of early-voting and voting hours so more residents can vote at times and places convenient to them. Brandon Rottinghaus, political scientist at the University of Houston, said that 1.5 million voters need to vote for Democrats to have a chance at winning in Texas. 

Some speculate that the effort to discourage drive-thru voting is a part of the Republican-led legal challenges to voting measures seen across the country. President Donald Trump has led this charge by spreading doubt on the legitimacy of vote counting and Republican officials have made numerous claims of voter fraud. Trump is projected to win the electoral and popular votes in Texas.

“The goal is not ultimately to have [the votes] invalidated,” Jared Woodfill, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told CNN before the state Supreme Court announced its decision. “It’s to have them cast right.”

Hollins defended drive-thru voting because he believes it is a safe option to combat voters potentially being exposed to COVID-19. He also added that drive-thru voting has been supported by the courts and elected officials, according to CNN.

“We know that the law is on our side,” Hollins told CNN after the Supreme Court announced its decision. “We know that we should be protecting these votes, making sure that all of our residents here can have their voice heard, can have their say in our democracy.”

John Turner can be reached at jturner3@ithaca.edu