Governor’s Order to Remove Drop-Off Ballot Boxes Brings Questions
By Bismarck D. Andino
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott’s proclamation limiting counties to a single mail-in ballot drop-off location made people question whether he has the legal authority to do so.
In a lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin American Citizens and the League of Women Voters, a federal court ruled that he doesn’t. Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the court’s decision and Abbott’s order was reinstated. On Thursday, a Travis County judge blocked the enforcement of this order.
For Roberto Manzo, who drove almost 10 miles to the drop-off location at 5501 Airport Blvd., it was a “blatant political move” that will affect many Austin residents.
“Obviously, for the elderly, for the ones that don’t have transportation, and much more importantly, the ones that have children at home that they can’t bring with them,” Manzo said.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the four drop-off locations were supposed to make it safer for early voters, but with the new order in place it could put some at risk to COVID-19.
“His job is to protect the public and he is refusing to do that for partisan reasons, and I mean, to me, that is almost an impeachable offense,” Hinojosa said.
According to the governor’s office, this action is about the election’s integrity and the order was meant to stop attempts at illegal voting.
However, Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said Abbott’s move was abrupt and disruptive to the original plan in which they invested a lot of money.
“We did not receive any advanced notice,” DeBeauvoir said. “I’m not sure that the governor’s assumption about the fact that we’re only entitled to only one drop-off per county is legally correct. I do not know that.”
DeBeauvoir said illegal voting has never been an issue, the ballot boxes at the drive-thru are guarded by security and constables, and they get unloaded frequently during the day. As of Thursday, the clerk’s office had received more than 23,000 mail ballots.
Although a new court has blocked Abbott’s order, it is unclear whether the other drop-off locations will be reopened or if there will be a challenge to the new decision.
Meanwhile, Manzo hopes these events doesn’t discourage people from exercising their civic duty.
“Either you expose yourself to coronavirus like Trump did, foolishly, or bring the ballot to this place,” he said.
October 18 update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as filing the appeal of the federal court’s rejection of the governor’s proclamation.