In a stunning last-minute election change, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that election officials will only be able to collect mail-in ballots at a single location.
The move will force major counties to shut down multiple mail ballot drop-off locations under the guise of election security.
“The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Abbott said announcing the order.
There is no evidence of systemic voter mail fraud in Texas, or anywhere else in the U.S.
Abbott’s move will undoubtedly have a major impact in the state’s most populated counties, where long lines and high turnout in previous elections have caused election officials to encourage mail-in voting as well as make changes to accommodate the expected increase of absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement to the Signal, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said many mail ballots have already been dropped off by voters in the county and drop-off locations have been advertised for weeks.
“Our office is more than willing to accommodate poll watchers at mail ballot drop-off locations,” Hollins said. “But to force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single drop-off location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous.”
Democrats have criticized the move as a clear voter suppression tactic. Reacting to the news, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said democracy itself is on the ballot.
“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “Courts all over the country, including the Fifth Circuit yesterday, have held that it is too late to change election rules, but our failed Republican leadership will try anyway.”
Democratic candidates competing in congressional swing districts have also blasted the governor.
“From attempts to gut the United States Postal Service to the closing of polling locations, this is just the latest example of a dangerous attack on our voting rights,” said Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force veteran running in Texas’ 23rd District, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and is considered one of the likeliest GOP congressional seats to flip in 2020.
“Our leaders should be focused on ensuring Texans can vote safely during this ongoing economic and public health crisis, not actively undermining our democracy,” she said.
The last-minute move comes as the state of Texas successfully fights litigation by Democrats and civil rights groups to expand absentee voting, send mail-in ballot applications to registered voters, and try to reinstate straight-ticket voting.
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