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Abbott moves to stop mail ballot dropoff locations

I don’t know about you, but this reeks of fear to me.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday declared that counties can designate only one location to collect completed mail ballots from voters, forcing Harris County to abandon 11 sites set up for that purpose.

Abbott’s proclamation said counties must also 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.”

Abbott did not cite any examples of voter fraud, which election law experts say is exceedingly rare.

Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins had set up 12 locations — 11 of them county clerk annex offices — throughout the 1,777-square-mile county to collet mail ballots. The county now will only be able to accept ballots only at its election headquarters at NRG Arena.

This new executive order is here. This is of a piece with the Hotze mandamus to limit mail ballot dropoffs to Election Day itself. It’s telling that Abbott is just now issuing orders about the use of multiple locations for mail ballot dropoffs, because County Clerk Chris Hollins announced his intention to use the 11 County Clerk Annex offices for this purpose in mid-July, which is to say two and a half months ago. And Abbott is just now taking action? I mean, come on.

It’s really hard to escape the conclusion that this is a desperation move by Abbott, in part to try to curb Democratic voting, and in part to quell the wingnut rebellion that’s been brewing against him. And let’s be clear, the Texas GOP as recently as the runup to the 2018 election would have laughed at the Dems’ efforts to get their voters out. “Oh, the Dems think they can boost their turnout and win some elections, aren’t they adorable.” They’re taking it all quite seriously now, that much is for sure.

It’s transparent and it’s ridiculous, and it makes no sense as anything but a pure partisan power move.

Now to be sure, people don’t have to use a dropoff location. They can just use the mail as always, and now there’s a nifty mail ballot tracker to ensure that your ballot gets received and processed. I feel reasonably confident saying that most people were planning to vote by mail as they had done before. But that’s not the point. The point is that this was a simple and innovative way to make voting easier for people, something Chris Hollins has excelled at in his brief time as County Clerk. Greg Abbott’s move is the exact opposite of that, and it serves no good purpose.

And I remind you, it was done at the last minute, after weeks and weeks of people being told they could use these annex locations. What have Texas Republicans had to say about last-minute changes to the voting process?

I hope they have a lawsuit filed before I get to publish this post. (Per the Trib, one may indeed be filed today, perhaps more than one.) And I can’t wait to see how the Fifth Circuit applies its own jurisprudence to this question.

(On a side note, I will note that while I have heaped all kinds of scorn and contempt on the multitudinous Hotze vote-suppression lawsuits, I have also repeatedly agreed that there is a serious debate to have about the extent of Abbott’s executive powers and the proper role of our extremely part-time Legislature in all this. Because Hotze and company are a bunch of rancid clowns, they are a terrible vehicle for posing those questions. Perhaps by opening this war on a second front, Abbott will finally have a worthy opponent putting them before a judge.)

For a bit of variety, and to provide a summary of all this, here’s a press release from All on the Line, a national campaign to restore fairness to our democracy and ensure every American has an equal say in our government.

“This last minute order is another link in a very long chain of voter suppression and intimidation in Texas,” said Genevieve Van Cleve, All On The Line state director. “Governor Greg Abbott is working to make it harder for grandparents to vote and allowing so-called poll watchers to glower at them while they do it.”

In preparation for the November general election, counties with large populations including Harris and Travis have designated and staffed satellite drop off locations to make it easier for those not comfortable sending their completed ballots through the mail.

Texas has 254 counties. Loving County has a population of 160 people. Harris County has a population of 4,713,000 people. Governor Abbott’s order allows each county, regardless of size, the same number of drop off locations for mail-in ballots: one. Further, he has sanctioned citizens to “observe” people delivering their ballots.

Gov. Abbott’s order is meant to suppress turnout and intimidate voters. Those most likely to be impacted are seniors and Texans living with disabilities who rely on mail-in-ballots. The very same people who are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.

Further, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled days before Gov. Abbott’s order that reinstating straight ticket voting was impossible due largely to the close proximity to the election. Yet, he’s changing the rules of the election with just days to go.

“These last minute changes to the rules will not deter Texas voters from casting their ballots, despite the Governor’s intentions. Texans are energized, well-informed, and will demand that their voices be heard and respected at the ballot box,” Van Cleve said.

Early Vote begins in Texas on October 13th. The last day to register to vote in Texas is October 5th. Mail-in Ballots that are not postmarked must be received by 7pm on Election Day; Mail-in Ballots postmarked by 7pm on Election Day must be received by 5pm the day after Election Day.

Next stop, the litigation. I’m sure I’ll have a post about it tomorrow. The Statesman, the Current, and Reform Austin have more.

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37 Comments

  1. […] to see how many more mail ballot applications get sent out, and of course now we have to deal with Greg Abbott’s mail ballot dropoff bullshit, but those of you who have requested them, this is how you can be sure that yours gets to the […]

  2. Flypusher says:

    “ Further, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled days before Gov. Abbott’s order that reinstating straight ticket voting was impossible due largely to the close proximity to the election. Yet, he’s changing the rules of the election with just days to go.”

    Republicans are shameless hypocrites. Knock me over with a feather.

  3. Manny says:

    Well if Abbot thinks that is going to make a difference as to the election he is a bigger racist fool than I believe him to be.

  4. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    I suppose I shouldn’t wait on Sarah Davis and Dan Crenshaw to blast Abbott for attempting to disenfranchise their constituents by making it harder for them to vote safely.

  5. voter_worker says:

    Stupid question: does the ballot return mail envelope require only one stamp? I haven’t been able to find anything on the required postage amount on HarrisVotes.

  6. Mainstream says:

    Not only is it bad PR for Republican candidates to fight to shorten early voting time limits, and the Governor to restrict mail drop off locations, it is stupid politics. I cannot imagine an elderly Republican voter from Clear Lake, Kingwood, Cypress, Katy driving down to NRG to drop off their ballot. Assuming the Governor even has the power to make this sort of law unilaterally, it would be smarter politics to at least allow one per commissioner district, or one per every 100,000 or 200,000 registered voters, for example.

  7. Thomas says:

    One possibility someone (I forget who) brought up is that county clerks in urban counties can simply ignore the Abbott order.

    That said, this is going to court.

  8. Aaron Wendt says:

    Just curious. How many absentee ballot drop off locations were there in Harris County in prior elections?

  9. Jen says:

    @voter-worker — the return envelope for the primary said 55 cents, so a forever stamp. I just dropped my mail ballot with one forever stamp in the mailbox at the Dunlavy HEB for collection today (Friday 10/2), going to follow with the tracker and keep you all posted.

  10. voter_worker says:

    Thanks Jen!

  11. Bill Daniels says:

    Wait. Weren’t we told that voting by mail is perfectly safe? Everybody in America, save for the homeless, has a mailbox. They can both receive mail, and send mail with those mail boxes.

    We really need to pick a narrative. Either vote by mail is perfectly safe, or it isn’t and we must personally hand deliver those mail in ballots directly. Pick one.

  12. Flypusher says:

    False dichotomy bullshit. We can have both and we should have both, especially with the lying cheating GOP openly sabotaging the postal system.

  13. robert says:

    Bill, it’s because when the “leader” starts to say how mailing won’t be safe and starts to slow down the mail, people become worried and want to make sure their vote makes it to them in time.

    I generally only read the comments when I see that you’ve said something, because you don’t disappoint. Usually you’re saying something that I’d expect to hear in the south in the 50’s.

    And also Jules, I like reading what he replies to you.

    I’m sure you’re good for clicks

  14. […] here for the background and here for a copy of the complaint. The “approval” from the […]

  15. […] here for the background, and here for more on the first lawsuit. This one is a Democracy Docket suit, […]

  16. Jules says:

    robert, no doubt Bill will be too embarrassed to show up around here for a while, what with all the time he’s wasted touting hydroxychloroquine.

  17. Manny says:

    I so wish you are correct Jules.

  18. Flypusher says:

    Counterpoint- Trump suckers have no shame.

  19. Bill Daniels says:

    Jules,

    I know you and your life partner are sitting around in your footed pajamas this morning, drinking hot cocoa and listening to Celine Dion CDs, so I’ll refrain from any negative commentary this morning. Everybody deserve a little happiness, after all.

    As to the HCQ/azithromycin/zinc combo, you betcha WHEN I get the Wu flu that’s what I’ll be taking, even if I have to get Stella to prescribe it for me. That’s conditional on me knowing that I even have it…..many people who get it never know it.

    @Robert:

    I’m happy to know I’ve entertained you, and I’ll just say that Kuff has very well researched topics. He puts in the work, I’m happy to get him all the ‘click’ revenue I can. He deserves it. The only sad part about that is, when I occasionally agree with Kuff on something, that doesn’t generate any interest, for some reason.

    @Manny,

    Shouldn’t you be at the Iglesia Católica, in a couple of hours, praying that fellow Catholic Amy Barrett gets confirmed as a SC justice?

  20. Jules says:

    Will you shut up, clown

  21. Bill Daniels says:

    Finally, 60 Minutes reports on Joe Biden’s sexual assault of Tara Reade! Sad that it had to be the Austrailian version, but hey, at least someone is reporting on the assault.

    https://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/he-pushed-me-against-the-wall-joe-biden-accuser-describes-alleged-sex-assault/news-story/63fb6c7e5aca228efcdfaea277169b5d

    If y’all, like fellow liberal Jean Carroll, think that rape is sexy, you’ll be titillated by Tara’s description of the attack on her by Joe. Since there’s a woman involved, obviously, this will be of no interest to Jules.

  22. […] hits in making it harder to vote, but it’s all familiar. (This was also written before the Abbott order about mail ballot dropoff locations, which shows that there will always be new frontiers in this field.) The key to this whole thing is […]

  23. robert says:

    I don’t think 60 minutes has enough time to try to investigate the number of Trumps sexual assault cases.

    Bill, are you jealous of Jules…..or is this your “manly” way of hitting him?

  24. brad says:

    There is an air of desperation in Bill’s ranting.

  25. C.L. says:

    A foul air.

  26. Jen says:

    @voter_worker– I just found out that the Harris Votes website says you need two stamps ($1.10) to mail your mail in ballot. Very very sorry I was wrong. The FAQ says the post office will deliver it with no postage or insufficient postage and bill the county. The return envelope said “place stamp here”, note it said stamp not stamps.
    I will find out if they get it with only one stamp b/c that is what I did. The ballot tracker says they mailed me the ballot 9/28 (Monday) and nothing since. I got the ballot 10/1 (Thursday) and mailed it Friday.

  27. Jen says:

    Ballot tracker reports Ballot Received by Elections 10/07 (Wednesday) after being mailed Friday.

  28. Bill Daniels says:

    What we learned from the VP debate:

    ~Kamala/Joe will NOT ban fracking (this is either a crushing disappointment, or Dems know the secret handshake, which is “It was a debate!” meaning, it’s OK for me to lie about this.)

    ~Kamala/Joe WILL indeed try and pack the Supreme Court if they win.

  29. brad says:

    Bill,

    Do you deny that it is constitutionally legal to increase the size of the Supreme Court?

  30. C.L. says:

    I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘packing the Court’ – whoever is President gets to choose the nominee when a vacancy arises. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a Republican President would nominate judges with conservative leanings and a Democrat President would nominate a judge with liberal views. If a Republican President is in office when multiple vacancies come open, and said President’s nominees are all conservative in nature, how is that a shocker and how is that packing the court ? No one in their right mind would have expected Obama to pick A.C. Barrett, and no one would expect Trump to pick another R.B. Ginsberg.

    As far as adding Judges to the Supreme Court…Sure, why not ? Just because it’s been 9 for 150 years doesn’t mean there couldn’t be 11 in 2021. The Constitution is a fluid document for a reason.

    “The U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court but left it to Congress to decide how many justices should make up the court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six: a chief justice and five associate justices. In 1807, Congress increased the number of justices to seven; in 1837, the number was bumped up to nine; and in 1863, it rose to 10. In 1866, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act, which shrank the number of justices back down to seven and prevented President Andrew Johnson from appointing anyone new to the court. Three years later, in 1869, Congress raised the number of justices to nine, where it has stood ever since. In 1937, in an effort to create a court more friendly to his New Deal programs, President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to convince Congress to pass legislation that would allow a new justice to be added to the court—for a total of up to 15 members—for every justice over 70 who opted not to retire. Congress didn’t go for FDR’s plan.”

  31. Wolfgang says:

    While this is far off the topic of this post …

    “Court Packing” is a loaded term that implies illegitimacy. The idea of a membership increase should instead be evaluated on its merits.

    COURTS OF LAST RESORT: TEXAS VS. UNITED STATES AS A WHOLE

    Consider that the SCOTUS has 9 justices for the entire nation. In Texas, we also have 9 (currently 8 because of a vacancy) on the state supreme court (SCOTX), but only for civil and juvenile cases (with occasional exception, such as Shelley Luther criminal contempt habeas that stems from a civil enforcement case).

    There are 9 more justices (judges, by job title) for criminal matters: Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

    And the case volume of Texas is, of course, only a fraction of the case volume for the entire nation (without going into the details of state vs. federal jurisdiction, though that may be worth exploring too).

    If the size of the SCOTUS were to be increased, they could hear more cases on the merits (in terms of institutional capacity as a real-life constraint on discretionary review), and they could perhaps make an analogous division of civil vs. criminal (rather than sitting in panels), and thus avoid having every case go to the en banc court, which would undermine the gain in case-processing capacity. Or perhaps the members of an enlarged court could be rotated through the two divisions on a random basis, or in a way to counteract gamesmanship by attorneys and by the justices themselves.

  32. robert says:

    Bill, What we learned (already knew) was that Mike Pence misleads. Since you like to assume things about Jules….I think that pence is a freak behind closed doors and Mother is a dominatrix, he fits the profile. You on the other hand probably have dead bodies buried in your back yard (or fridge)

    https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/oct/08/fact-checking-2020-vice-presidential-debate-kamala/

  33. brad says:

    C.L.,

    How long it is legal for the US Senate to block a president’s nominee for the Supreme Court?

    9 months?
    1 year?
    3 years?
    Until their party nominee wins the presidency?

  34. C.L. says:

    Brad, …forever.

    Per the Googler (well, actually, per the Senate Consideration of Presidential
    Nominations: Committee and Floor Procedure):

    “After a nomination has been called up, the question before the Senate is “will the Senate advise and consent to this nomination?” A majority of Senators voting is required to approve a nomination. <<>> On April 6, 2017, the Senate reinterpreted Rule XXII in order to allow cloture to be invoked on nominations to the Supreme Court by a majority of Senators voting. This expanded the results of similar actions taken by the Senate in November 2013, which changed the cloture vote requirement to a majority for nominations other than to the Supreme Court. After the 2013 decision, the number of nominations subjected to a cloture process increased.”

  35. C.L. says:

    Sorry, Brad. All of which I copy-n-pasted did not transfer, presumably due to my use of .

    In its entirety:

    “After a nomination has been called up, the question before the Senate is “will the Senate advise and consent to this nomination?” A majority of Senators voting is required to approve a nomination. However, Senate rules place no limit on how long a nomination may be debated, and ending consideration could require invoking cloture. On April 6, 2017, the Senate reinterpreted Rule XXII in order to allow cloture to be invoked on nominations to the Supreme Court by a majority of Senators voting. This expanded the results of similar actions taken by the Senate in November 2013, which changed the cloture vote requirement to a majority for nominations other than to the Supreme Court. After the 2013 decision, the number of nominations subjected to a cloture process increased.

    On April 3, 2019, the Senate reinterpreted Rule XXII again. The Senate reduced, from 30 hours to 2 hours, the maximum time nominations can be considered after cloture has been invoked. This change applied to all executive branch nominations except to high-level positions such as heads of departments, and it applied to all judicial nominations except to the Supreme Court and the
    U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The full impact of this change is difficult to assess at this time, but it is likely to shorten the time between a cloture vote and a vote on the nomination. If Senators respond as they did to the last reinterpretation of the cloture rule, it might also increase the number of nominations subjected to a cloture process.

    Nominations that are pending when the Senate adjourns sine die at the end of a session or recesses for more than 30 days are returned to the President unless the Senate, by unanimous consent, waives the rule requiring their return (Senate Rule XXXI, clause 6). If a nomination is returned, and the President still desires Senate consideration, he must submit a new nomination.”

  36. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    Sure, why not add Supreme Court justices? In fact, I suggest that Trump and McConnell just start adding justices right now. Get Ted Cruz in as a SC justice. How many do you suggest we add? Trump can get that done for us right now.

    Robert,

    Very close. I actually am driving around right now with dead hookers in my trunk. And you know why I haven’t ended up like George Kirby or the other lionized dead black criminals?

    A: Because, when I’m hauling those dead hookers around, I obey the traffic laws, don’t speed, use a turn signal, have my license plate sticker up to date, my lights all work, I carry insurance, have a valid driver’s license, I don’t have criminal hoodlum friends, and I don’t have warrants.

  37. robert says:

    Bill….you are also white, the best insurance policy in the country, ask Kyle Rittenhouse.

    And you know you shouldn’t text while driving, lol