State and local Republicans have taken their challenge of drive-thru voting in Harris County to the Texas Supreme Court.
In separate petitions, the Texas and Harris County GOP are asking the state’s highest court to limit drive-thru voting, which Clerk Christopher Hollins opened this year at 10 sites and made available to all voters.
The GOP argues the new practice is a form of curbside voting, which only is allowed for people who are sick at the time, have a physical condition that requires personal assistance or are at risk of injured health if they venture inside a polling location.
“The aforementioned criteria for curbside voting is equally applicable to ballots by mail voting,” the petition said. “With respect to ballot by mail voting, the Texas Supreme Court has already held that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19, without more, is not a ‘disability’ as defined by the Election Code, and therefore, is not a sufficient basis to permit a voter to validly vote by mail.”
The county argues its drive-thru sites are not a form of curbside voting. The 10 sites are contained within a parking garage or tent facilities, a quality attorneys argue satisfies the criteria to be polling sites in their own right.
“The basic requirement for polling places is that it’s in a building,” Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray said. “We’re interpreting that as long as we have a permanent or temporary structure,” it’s OK.
Even if it were curbside voting, Ray argued, it is up to the voter to decide whether he or she has a disability. The county does not have the legal authority to question disability claims, he said.
It is not clear how the votes already cast at drive-thru sites would be handled if the Supreme Court were to side with the plaintiffs.
The state GOP’s petition asks for a ruling forcing Hollins to “reject any curbside voting efforts” that do not comply with its interpretation of the law.
See here and here for the background, and here for both of the plaintiffs’ petitions. I have no idea how quickly the Supreme Court might move on this, but we’ve had three full days of drive-through voting so far, and going by the daily report, thousands of people have used it. I can’t imagine any ruling for the plaintiffs that wouldn’t be deeply disruptive, and that’s exactly the sort of thing that’s not supposed to happen with court rulings close to an election. But like I’ve said, the Supreme Court’s gonna do what the Supreme Court’s gonna do, and all we can do is adjust when they do it. Stay tuned.