With less than three weeks until election day, The Circus came to Texas. More specifically, Showtime’s The Circus, a television documentary series in its fifth season, now chronicling the 2020 election. In the latest episode, a crew traveled to Texas and scored an interview with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and grilled him on the state’s decision to limit mail-in ballot drop-off boxes to only one per county.
Mark McKinnon, co-creator and producer of the show and a long-time political advisor for Texas candidates in both parties, first visited Harris County and the site of the only mail-in ballot drop-off location in Houston at NRG Arena. McKinnon spoke with Andre Segura, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
McKinnon pointed out that Harris County is larger than Rhode Island with a population of over 4.7 million. The smallest county in Texas, Loving, has 121 registered voters. And yet both counties have just one mail-in ballot drop-off location. Harris County officials had planned to have eleven additional drop-off locations for mail-in ballots.
Segura said when it comes to having one ballot drop-off location in Houston, it’s clear who Republicans are targeting. “The balance is really off and people of color and people with disabilities [end up] bearing the brunt of these policies.”
Segura also listed a number of ways Republicans like Gov. Greg Abbott are trying to suppress the vote: from no online voter registration to a court challenge opposing drive-through voting locations (which was dismissed by a state appeals court). Earlier this year, Texas Democrats called for the expansion of mail-in ballots for all registered voters after the COVID-19 pandemic started. The Texas Supreme Court, however, agreed with Abbott and Texas Republicans that a lack of immunity to COVID-19 was not a valid excuse for voting by mail.
McKinnon then interviewed Patrick and asked him about the efficacy of one mail-in drop-off box per county. “You don’t break any law you don’t want to follow,” replied Patrick. When pressed further, Patrick countered that “the whole purpose of the mail-in ballot is to mail it in.”
McKinnon then mentioned that there is a difference between being in a car dropping off a ballot, versus a polling location to wait in line potentially with people that are not wearing masks. Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a reminder last week that any statewide mask requirement does not apply to voting centers. Several Texas Republicans are also reminding constituents that they do not need a face mask to vote in person.
Patrick kept returning to the point that Texans who are voting by mail can simply send their ballot through the mail instead of delivering it in-person to a drop-off location. When McKinnon brought up concerns with the post office, Patrick dismissed that allegation. “There’s always problems with the post office,” said Patrick.
McKinnon also pressed Patrick on why Texas fought against the expansion of mail-in ballots even in a pandemic. McKinnon noted that in Colorado, where he currently resides, the entire election is conducted by mail-in ballots. That prompted Patrick to falsely assert that rampant fraud occurs with mail-in ballots.
“The best way to protect the voter is voting in person,” stated Patrick. When presented with the results of a study from a conservative-leaning group debunking massive voter fraud, Patrick said he didn’t believe that. “Democrats know there is fraud in mail-in ballots,” he said at the end of the segment.
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