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Hollins calls on Secretary of State to defend drive through voting

Good.

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins is seeking assurance from Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs that her office is “committed to defending the votes” cast at the county’s drive-thru voting sites, the subject of two lawsuits currently before the state Supreme Court.

In a letter sent to Hughs Tuesday, Hollins cited prior support from state election officials, including Elections Director Keith Ingram, for the legality of drive-thru voting. He asked Hughs to confirm by noon Wednesday that the office stands by those statements.

By noon, Hollins had not received a response from Hughs, according to a spokeswoman for the clerk’s office.

A spokesman for Hughs said the office had received Hollins’ letter, but he declined to say whether Hughs or anyone from her office planned to respond. He also did not say whether Hollins had accurately characterized the position of state elections officials on drive-thru voting.

[…]

In his letter to Hughs, Hollins wrote, “Your office has repeatedly expressed that drive-thru voting fit the definitions and requirements for a polling place provided in the Texas Election Code for both Early Voting and Election Day.” During a court proceeding, Hollins wrote, Ingram called drive-thru voting “a creative approach that is probably okay legally.”

Last Friday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a guidance letter in which he suggested Harris County’s use of curbside voting does not pass legal muster. He wrote that state law “makes no provision for polling places located outdoors, in parking lots, or in parking structures.” The state election code also does not allow “‘drive-thru’ voting centers at which any voter may cast a ballot from his or her vehicle regardless of physical condition,” Paxton wrote.

“Curbside voting is not, as some have asserted contrary to Texas law, an option for any and all voters who simply wish to vote from the comfort of their cars when they are physically able to enter the polling place,” Paxton wrote.

You can see a video call with Hollins about this here, his official statement here, and further coverage from Chron reporter Jasper Scherer here. The concern at this point is not just that the Supreme Court might put a halt to what Harris County has been doing, but that they might invalidate the 70K+ votes that have been cast by drive-through voting. The contempt for voters that this would display, at this super late hour, is breathtaking. I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that. I don’t know what else to say.

I don’t know when the Supreme Court might rule on this facially ridiculous challenge, but I will note that not only was it filed after early voting had begun, it’s now been a week since it was filed with SCOTX. They’re taking their sweet time about this. I hope that means that they’re not willing to stick a knife in this, but all I have is hope. Again, what this writ represents is plain and simple contempt for voters. There’s no other principle here.

On a side note, we also have this:

That is of course in reference to this turd of a Fifth Circuit ruling, and it’s exactly what we’d expect from the Clerk’s office. Every other election administrator in this state should follow their example.

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9 Comments

  1. TBender says:

    The USSC ruled last night against allowing Alabama counties from curbside voting.
    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/10/21/alabama-curbside-voting-supreme-court-431130

    After the 11th Circuit allowed it.

  2. brad says:

    The GOP is truly shameless on ensuring voting rights.

  3. ken roberts says:

    I just got off the phone with the Texas Secretary of State (800-252-8683). There was no wait. Please take a few minutes to do the same, especially if you’re in Harris County. Here were the steps:

    1) Call 800-252-8683.

    2) No button press for English. Then press 1 for Elections and 5 for Other.

    3) Let the first person you talk to know that you are a Harris County voter and you have a request/message for the Sec’y of State. She forwarded my call to a SoS lawyer (which seems like a waste of expensive resources).

    4) When getting through to the lawyer, I said:

    Hello, my name is Ken Roberts and I’m a Harris County voter. I have a couple requests-slash-demands for Secretary of State [Ruth] Hughes.

    First and foremost, I would like Secretary Hughes to issue a statement of assurance that all the drive-thru ballots cast in Harris County will count. It would be a horrific display of contempt for democracy to even consider invalidating these ballots that were cast safely and securely with every belief they were being cast properly.

    Second, I ask that she and Director of Elections Keith Ingram stand by past statements…both in and out of court…that were in support of the process of drive-thru. Failure to do so now in the midst of an election would be wrong; make them look feckless; and destabilize the election they’re tasked with overseeing.

    Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
    —-

    Please call and adapt the above in your own words. Normal people don’t speak like that.

  4. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    SCOUS RULING ON CURBSIDE VOTING, NOT DRIVE-THRU

    Merrill v. People First of Alabama, No. 20A67, 592 U.S. ___ (Oct. 21, 2020)

    This SCOTUS ruling is about curbside voting and also involves a state-vs-local-control dimension, but is not directly relevant to the current legal issue in Texas for multiple reasons. It’s about ADA compliance and a federal district court fashioned remedy (subject to the Purcell reasoning).

    In Texas, the legal issue involves statutory construction, specifically, whether the drive-thru voting places are proper polling places. Curbside voting is the law in Texas. What the Republican relators argue is that the drive-through voting is controlled by the rules that apply to curbside voting, and that curbside voting is not available to just any voter.

    That said, the short Dissent by Justice Sotomayor is worth reading.

    JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAGAN join, dissenting from grant of stay. This stay application arises from the Alabama secretary of state’s decision to ban curbside voting despite the ongoing COVID–19 crisis and the willingness of certain Alabama counties to assist voters with disabilities. Following a lengthy trial and resting on an extensive record, the District Court found, among other things, that the secretary’s ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by forcing voters with disabilities, for whom COVID–19 is disproportionately likely to be fatal, to risk unnecessary exposure to the virus if they wish to vote in person. The District Court enjoined the secretary’s ban, thus allowing counties that are ready to adopt curbside voting to do so. I would not upset the District Court’s record-based, reasoned, and narrowly tailored judgment, which the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit let stand.

    Full text here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/20a67_3e04.pdf

  5. Mark says:

    Kudos to the Harris County Commissioners Court in appointing Chris Hollins. He’s been far more than a caretaker as the interim clerk.

  6. Jeff . says:

    Friday (tomorrow) morning at 9 a.m. is when the Texas Supreme Court issues its weekly rulings. Here’s the link: https://www.txcourts.gov/supreme/orders-opinions/

    Hoping to see a ruling tomorrow. I used drive-through voting last week, and if our votes are not going to count, I’d like a chance to vote again next week. The court may issue a ruling on any day, however, including weekends, so there may still be time to see their ruling.

    Texas is one of the few states that limit a voter’s choice as to how they cast their ballot. There’s no good reason for the legislature and courts to limit voter choice. This is a vivid example of the problems that come with our narrow approach.

  7. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    Here is the link for the SCOTX dispositions released this afternoon:

    https://www.txcourts.gov/supreme/orders-opinions/2020/october/october-22-2020/
    The case-specific dockets can be looked up through a Case search using the case number.

    NOTA BENE: Mandamus petitions denied, not dismissed for lack of standing on the part of petitioners/relators. Court did not write an opinion giving a reason or addressing jurisdiction. (Fourteenth COA had dismissed for lack of jurisdiction).

    Justice Devine once more dissented.

  8. Jay Konney says:

    Kibitzer Curiae: The case is slightly different as its an ADA case where Alabama banned that method but said they had a different accomodation. In TX one can do curbside voting if disabled.

    In this case the TX Secy of State had approved the drive in method