The Oct. 1 order states that it “is appropriate to add ballot security protocols for when a voter returns a marked mail ballot to the early voting clerk’s office,” and that reducing the number of sites makes it easier for poll watchers to monitor the locations and detect any potential foul play. The lawsuits claim that it makes voting too difficult for those who do not live near their county’s location.
“This latest effort to take away Texas voters’ access to voting during the pandemic imposes a significant, unjustifiable burden and must be immediately enjoined,” said a complaint filed Friday by the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans and others.
The lawsuit claims that by only having one site per county, some Texans will have to travel hundreds of miles to submit their vote if they want to avoid going to the polls for in-person voting to protect themselves from exposure to coronavirus.
Another lawsuit, filed Thursday by groups including the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, claims that because the voting process has already started, Abbott’s order is “exactly the type of ‘precipitous change’ that he had cautioned against.”
This was a reference to Abbott successfully arguing earlier this year that a court could not properly reinstate straight-ticket voting that allows a person to cast a single vote that applied to everyone running from a particular party so close to the election.
“In the midst of an election that is already underway, forcing such new burdens on voters who relied on a different set of election rules to make their voting plan, is unreasonable, unfair, and unconstitutional,” that lawsuit said.
Abbott insists that the order is a precaution to prevent fraud, which Republicans have frequently warned could take place as states across the country expect large numbers of mailed or dropped-off ballots instead of their usual in-person voting. The order addresses COVID-19 by pointing out that Abbott previously extended the period during which people can vote early in person, reducing Election Day crowds.
“The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Abbot said in a statement. “As we work to preserve Texans’ ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”