In a move many Texans are calling a form of voter suppression, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced on Thursday (October 1) counties were to stop accepting hand-delivered absentee ballots at more than one location. The proclamation could make it harder for residents to vote early.
For example, Harris County has 11 counties to drop off absentee ballots. Under Abbott’s new proclamation, the number is reduced to simply one.
The proclamation modifies part of Abbott’s order from July 27 which added six days of early absentee voting in the state in a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The July 27 ruling angered Republicans who are currently in court challenging the additional early voting days.
Abbott said he issued the new order to protect the security of the ballots. Donald Trump has questioned on numerous occasions about absentee balloting, even as he has voted by mail in previous elections. Texas has 254 counties, including Harris which has a population of 4.7 million people. The country is home to 25 percent of the state’s Black residents and 18 percent of its Hispanic population.
“The state of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” Abbott 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.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner was among many Democrats who decried the proclamation.
“Growing up, I was bused over 20 miles as a student in the first integrated class at Klein High School,” Turner wrote on Twitter. Because of the Governor’s decision today, I would now have to go even farther to go drop off an absentee ballot and make sure my vote is counted.”
He continued, “Harris County is the third-largest county in the United States, and Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. Reducing the number of mail-in ballot drop-off sites from 11 to one is a direct attempt of voter suppression. We should be focused on making voting more accessible and stop trying to create obstacles and distractions to unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.”
Dallas County, another heavily populated Texas county, has over 2.5 million people and had five drop-off locations.
“While the governor asserts that he is attempting to ‘strengthen ballot security,’ we see this as yet another thinly disguised attempt to stymie the vote. As is well documented, Texas has a voter suppression problem, not a ballot security problem,” Sarah Labowitz, policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Texas said.