Texas Must Let Counties Offer Multiple Mail-Ballot Drop Boxes

A federal judge in Austin, Texas, blocked the state’s Republican governor from restricting counties to a single drop-box location for people who don’t trust the post office to deliver their mail-in ballots in time to be counted.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Oct. 1 limited all counties — regardless of their size or population — to a single drop-off location so poll watchers could more effectively monitor for mail-ballot fraud. Critics called the move a naked attempt at voter suppression because there is scant evidence of voting fraud and mail-ballot drop boxes are already as secure as regular polling locations.

Texas voters are required to show photo ID and sign a register before personally handing in mail ballots at drop-off spots, just as they must do when voting at the polls.

Harris County, which encompasses much of Houston, has for weeks advertised a dozen secure mail ballot drop-box locations to serve 2.4 million registered voters spread across 2,000 square miles. The county that includes the capitol city of Austin planned four drop-boxes. Both counties have increasingly voted for Democratic candidates in recent elections.

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Rolling back the governor’s order, which had closed drop-off locations after early voting had already begun, would “reduce or eliminate what would amount to executive-caused voter confusion on the eve of an election,” U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said.

The ruling came the day after an Ohio federal judge’s decision in a similar case, where intransigent Ohio election officials were ordered to allow multiple remote drop-off locations for voters wanting to hand-deliver their mail ballots to avoid postal delays.

Kayleigh Date, a spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s office, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling, which was issued late Friday evening.

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