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Texas counties can offer only one drop-off ballot location, federal appeals court rules, upholding Gov. Greg Abbott’s order

The Travis County Tax Office at 5501 Airport Blvd is now the only drive-thru location open for hand delivery of mail ballots in the county. The drop-off location photographed here on Oct. 2, will be open until Nov. 3. (Credit: Amna Ijaz/The Texas Tribune)

Texas counties may collect mail-in ballots at only one location, a federal appeals court ruled late Monday, once again upholding an order from Gov. Greg Abbott that restricts voting options.

Abbott in July acted to lengthen the early voting period and allow voters to deliver completed absentee ballots in person for longer than the normal period. But after large Democratic counties including Harris and Travis established several sites where voters could deliver their ballots, Abbott ordered Oct. 1 that they would be limited to one.

A number of civil rights groups sued in at least four lawsuits, calling the order an act of voter suppression that would disproportionately impact low-income voters, voters with disabilities, older voters and voters of color in Democratic counties. A federal judge on Friday sided with those groups, blocking Texas from enforcing the ruling.

But a three-judge panel on the conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted that ruling on Saturday and on Monday gave a more formal word on the matter in a written opinion.

“Leaving the Governor’s October 1 Proclamation in place still gives Texas absentee voters many ways to cast their ballots in the November 3 election. These methods for remote voting outstrip what Texas law previously permitted in a pre-COVID world,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan for the panel of three judges all appointed by President Donald Trump. “The October 1 Proclamation abridges no one’s right to vote.”