Texas Republicans Challenge Curbside, Drive-Thru Voting In Harris County

Screengrab / ArkLaTex Homepage / YouTube

JakeThomas

Harris County's curbside and drive-thru voting programs allow people to vote in person without entering a polling place.

The Texas Republican Party filed a new lawsuit just hours before early voting began on Monday, challenging Harris County’s curbside voting drive-thru voting programs, according to The Texas Tribune.

State election law has long allowed voters with medical conditions to vote curbside. After they arrive at a polling location, a ballot is brought outside to them in their vehicle by an election worker.

In addition to urging qualified voters to use the curbside option this year, Harris County also opened designated "drive-thru" polling locations for all voters, where poll workers hand people a voting machine through their car window after checking their photo identification.

  • The state Republican Party’s lawsuit “seeks to halt the drive-thru voting program and limit curbside voting to those who have submitted sworn applications saying they qualify for it,” according to the report.
  • Harris County, the state’s most populous, has attempted several steps to make voting easier and more safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Tribune noted, and Republicans have met each step by either challenging it or shutting it down.
  • Republicans targeted — and the state Supreme Court ultimately knocked down — Harris County’s attempt to send mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters.
  • “County officials also allowed for mail-in ballots to be hand delivered at clerk offices throughout the county’s more than 1,700 square miles,” The Tribune reported, but Gov. Greg Abbott (R) subsequently limited drop-off locations to one per county.
  • Now Republicans are going after the curbside and drive-thru programs.

For in-person voting, election officials have for the first time opened 10 drive-thru voting sites in the county. The Harris County Clerk’s website touts the option as "a safer, socially-distant alternative to walk-in voting for all voters.” A pilot program was first conducted in the July primary runoff election, with 200 voters casting ballots from their cars on the last day of early voting.

Voters must provide photo identification, then will be handed a portable voting machine in their car, according to the website. The clerk's office notes drive-thru voting is open to all voters, as opposed to curbside voting which is applicable for those with a disability.

  • Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, said in a Tuesday statement: “This lawsuit is not only frivolous, but it’s also a gross misrepresentation of the differences between curbside voting — for voters with disabilities, including illness — and drive-thru voting, which is available for all voters who want to vote from the safety and convenience of their vehicle.”

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa called Republican party leaders "cowards" and said in a statement that Gov. Greg Abbott, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton “will stop at nothing to try to stop Texans from voting in the middle of a pandemic.”

Read the full report.

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