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Gov. Abbott announces new limits to ballot drop-off sites

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visits Lake Jackson, Texas on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that each of the state’s counties could only have one mail-in ballot drop-off location for the November election.

The announcement came Thursday in an executive order, which cites election security as the primary reason counties must close sites, even those that have already been collecting ballots. State Democrats and other critics immediately challenged the order, explaining it does not prevent fraud but rather stops large groups of people who live in populous cities that are heavily Democratic from voting.

A similar attempt from Republicans in Ohio to limit drop-off locations was blocked by a judge last month.

“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Gov. Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Make no mistake, Democracy itself is on the ballot. Every Texan must get out and vote these cowards out!”

Abhi Rahman, the Texas Democratic Party’s communications director, declined to confirm or deny reports that the party would be filing a lawsuit when asked by the Washington Post. However, the League of United Latin American Citizens announced Thursday it would file a lawsuit against Gov. Abbott.

Republican groups, such as Republicans for the Rule of Law, an anti-Trump conservative group, are also trying to fight the order.

“If, as it appears, Gov. Abbott is attempting to change the outcome of an election by changing the rules at this late date, he’s committed a brazen offense against fair elections,” Carson Putnam, the group’s chief of communications, wrote in a statement.

With this order in effect, major counties in Texas, such as Harris County, which has a population of 4.7 million, and Tarrant County, which has a population of 2 million, will only have one site available each for voters to drop off their mail-in ballots.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the order is unrelated to election security as drop-off sites still require photo identification.

“Harris County is bigger than the state of Rhode Island, and we’re supposed to have 1 site?” Hidalgo tweeted. “This isn’t security, it’s suppression.”

The sites at risk of shutting down were originally created to provide Texas residents with a safe place to turn in their mail-in ballots as President Trump brought down public trust in the U.S. Postal Service.

These sites had already been advertised to voters, which may cause confusion in upcoming weeks with the order in effect as Texas residents attempt to drop off their ballots at sites that no longer exist.

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