In a ruling that critics said served as an endorsement of voter suppression, the Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday evening sided with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott regarding his order limiting each county in the state to just one mail-in ballot drop box.
After a federal appeals court stacked with President Donald Trump's judicial appointees ruled earlier this month in favor of the directive—which voting rights advocates say will make it particularly hard for voters in largely Democratic, urban areas like Austin and Houston to cast their ballots—the Anti-Defamation League of Texas and Common Cause Texas brought the case to the state Supreme Court. The groups argued Abbott did not have the authority to implement a rule which would disproportionately burden residents of large counties.
"Texas continues to be openly hostile to voting rights," tweeted Common Cause Texas after the ruling was handed down.
And Texas continues to be openly hostile to voting rights #LetTexasVote https://t.co/8iMogTKCzQ— Common Cause Texas (@Common Cause Texas)1603841428.0
The court claimed in its ruling that Abbott's order "does not disenfranchise anyone" because Texas voters can cast their ballots in person prior to Election Day and can mail in their ballots—options which could force voters to risk exposure to the coronavirus or use a method of voting which has been undermined repeatedly by Trump, who has baselessly claimed that voting by mail will invite election fraud, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
New York Times contributing writer Wahajat Ali denounced the ruling as "shameful, naked voter suppression."
Texas Supreme Court upholds governor’s order for single drop box per county for mail-in ballots. - @nytimes Shame… https://t.co/3Bv6WLkvmu— Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali (@Wajahat "Wears a Mask Because of a Pandemic" Ali)1603859564.0
In Harris County, where Houston is located, more than two million voters will rely on one ballot drop box instead of the usual 12. As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, voters assembling at the country's single drop-off location faced hours-long lines.
"Because of hostile state officials, Harris County has a single drop box covering 1,700 square miles," Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, tweeted last week.
32,000 voters return mail ballots in person in Harris County, Texas. Reminder -- Because of hostile state official… https://t.co/QKkiqXXhuc— Kristen Clarke (@Kristen Clarke)1603465774.0
Voting rights advocates expressed hope about reports of high voter turnout despite the rule. As CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip reported Wednesday, voters in Texas have cast more than 8.1 million votes so far—approaching total voter turnout in 2016, with nearly a week left to go until the final votes are cast.
Myrna Perez, a voting rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, which represented the plaintiffs in the state Supreme Court case, tweeted that with Tuesday's ruling, the groups have "hit the end of the line" and won't pursue the matter further in the courts and urged Texans to keep up the momentum.
We hit the end of the line on our case a/g Tx Gov Abbott for limiting ballot early return locations to one per coun… https://t.co/CiBTwTyrNy— Myrna Pérez (@Myrna Pérez)1603844345.0
"The Texas Supreme Court did its thing," Perez tweeted. "The voters now have to do ours."