Governor Abbott orders drop-off sites for mail-in ballots closed, limits one per county

In a surprise move, Governor Abbott ordered that all drop-off sites for mail-in ballots in Texas be closed, except for one location per county. This order comes at a time that mail-in ballots in the state are expected to be at an all-time high.

Thursday Abbott issued the order that only one drop-off location will be allowed in each county in Texas. He did so as a measure for ballot security, he said. The governor’s proclamation notes that the state is still under an emergency declaration due to the coronavirus pandemic and he has made provisions to accommodate voters, including increasing the period of early voting and opening additional polling places. Political parties are allowed to install poll watchers at drop-off sites to observe the process.

This is the latest development in the run-up to the general election in Texas. There have been numerous lawsuits for months over voting. Democrats have pushed hard for statewide universal mail-in voting though local officials are not prepared for that. Republicans have argued against that on the grounds of ballot security and the possibility of widespread voter fraud.

Abbott’s proclamation also said counties must allow poll watchers to “observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk’s office” related to the delivery of marked ballots. He said the measure was designed to improve ballot security.

“The state of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our election,” Abbott said in a statement. “These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”

Democrats complain that this is voter suppression. Rep. Al Green points out that this is a clear example that Texas should again be subject to supervision under the Voting Rights Act.

This is seen as a rebuke to large Democratic-controlled counties that have set up multiple sites to accept mail-in ballots. In Harris County (Houston), for example, there are twelve sites, eleven of which will now be closed. All of those locations are county clerk annex offices. The one remaining site will be located at NRG Arena, the sports stadium set up as a voting location. Harris County covers 1,777-square-miles, thus the complaints that only one location will not serve the whole county well. Harris County is the largest county in the state and controlled by Democrats. Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins, a Democrat, accuses the governor of going back on his agreement of making voting easier. Hollins, you may remember, wanted to send out mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the county for the November general election.

The drop-off sites are an alternative offered for voters who do not want to mail ballots at the post office, thanks to Democrat hysteria over the post office being corrupted by Trump, but do not want to vote in person. It is an additional service made available to make voting easier. It looks as though Democrats were taking advantage of it and setting up multiple sites which would all have to be closely monitored, just like any location accepting ballots, such as polling places. So, the governor acted accordingly to head off any shenanigans that might occur. The county clerk and an assistant county attorney offered statements.

Hollins accused Abbott of going back on his word in a July proclamation intended to make voting easier during the pandemic. He said Harris County for weeks has advertised its dropoff locations.

“To force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single dropoff location in a county that stretches nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous.”

Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray said the governor’s claim that limiting mail ballot collection to one site will combat fraud makes no sense. At each location the Harris County set up, voters had to deliver their own ballots, sign in, speak with an assistant clerk and provide identification.

Consolidating that process to one site will make dropping off a ballot more cumbersome, he said.

“It’s a bit like saying we had a hurricane and everybody needs water, so we’re going to have everybody go to a single location,” Ray said. “We’re not going to distribute it around town.”

The hurricane analogy is silly. The young socialist-wannabe county judge voiced her disagreement with the governor, too. Both she and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner have been active on Twitter with partisan political tweets in recent days. Whether it is over their support for Joe Biden in the presidential election or disagreements with Governor Abbott, there is no mistaking them for non-partisan public officials. They govern as though only Democrats live in Harris County or Houston. Harris County has 2.4 registered voters.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also rejected the idea that Abbott’s proclamation protects election integrity, given the ID requirement at dropoff sites. Hidalgo often has disagreed with Abbott during the pandemic but was reluctant to castigate him publicly; her sharp criticism Thursday was a notable shift in tone.

“This isn’t security, it’s suppression,” Hidalgo said in a statement. “Mail ballot voters shouldn’t have to drive 30 miles to drop off their ballot or rely on a mail system that’s facing cutbacks.”

More than 207,000 Harris County residents have requested mail ballots so far. That number is far more than in any previous election. As of Thursday, 404 had already been returned. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins has launched a mail ballot tracking system so that voters can track their ballot from the time a mail-in ballot is requested to when the ballot is delivered to the clerk’s office and processed. I checked out the site using my own information and it worked.

Democrats always accuse Republicans of suppressing the vote, whether record numbers are voting or not. In this cycle, Governor Abbott has done everything to make voting easier during the coronavirus pandemic – stopping short of universal mail-in voting. The charges of voter suppression at this point is laughable. Early voting has been extended. Voters are taking advantage of the virus to claim illness as a reason to vote by mail when it is only a fear of the virus that is the reason for the request. Never let a crisis go to waste. Additional voting sites will be open for early voting and on Election Day. Mail-in voting is in place, as is safe in-person voting.

Early voting begins on October 13.

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