Texas counties can have multiple absentee ballot drop-off locations, federal judge says, blocking Gov. Greg Abbott’s order

After Gov. Greg Abbott’s order, the Travis County Tax Office on Airport Boulevard became the only drive-thru location open in the county for hand delivery of mail ballots. Credit: Amna Ijaz/The Texas Tribune

A federal judge Friday ruled that Texas counties can have multiple drop-off locations for absentee ballots during the Nov. 3 general election, blocking the enforcement of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent order that sought to limit counties to just one such location.

Saying Abbott's order confused voters and restricted voter access, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted an injunction late Friday barring its enforcement. With an unprecedented number of Texas voters requesting mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic, and concerns about the reliability of the U.S. Postal Service, some large, Democratic counties had set up numerous locations to accept the ballots before Abbott's order.

Voting rights advocates called Abbott's move an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote that will disproportionately impact voters of color in the state’s biggest cities.

Harris County, the state’s most populous and home to Houston, had designated a dozen ballot drop-off locations in clerk offices across the county’s roughly 1,700 square miles, and had already begun collecting them. In Travis County, which includes Austin, officials had designated four locations where voters could deliver their ballots. To drop off a mail-in ballot, voters must present an approved form of identification to deliver their ballots, and they may not turn in any one else’s ballot.

Abbott’s order, which the governor said was meant to “strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state,” required all but one of each county’s drop-off locations to close and allowed political parties to install poll watchers to observe the process. A spokesperson for the governor did not answer questions on how allowing multiple locations for ballot delivery might lead to fraud.

This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.

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