Texas governor limits ballot drop-off sites for early votes

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott speaks to the press after attending the public viewing for George Floyd at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Texas on June 8, 2020.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday said he would restrict the in-person delivery of early-voting ballots to a single location per county in a state that has become unusually competitive in the presidential race and has several tight congressional races.  

The proclamation, which also permits poll watchers to observe ballot delivery, will go into effect Friday, closing several drop-off locations in the state. Abbott’s order amends a July 27 proclamation that extended early voting and allowed voters to deliver mail ballots in-person.

“The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections,” the governor, a Republican, said in a statement. “These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.” 

Texas Democrats criticized the governor’s proclamation as an attempt to suppress voters. 

“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Courts all over the country, including the Fifth Circuit yesterday, have held that it is too late to change election rules, but our failed Republican leadership will try anyway.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to questions about concerns that the change could limit residents’ ability to vote.

Abbott’s move comes as polling suggests a close race between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the state. Real Clear Politics’ polling average puts Trump at a 3.2-point lead over Biden. In 2016, Trump won Texas over then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by 9 points. 

A Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Texas is a must-win for Trump, who is trailing Biden in national polls and in several swing state polls. Texas has 38 electoral votes, second only to California’s 55. 

Republican Sen. John Cornyn is also up for re-election against Democratic candidate M.J. Hegar. The state is also home to several competitive House races.

The Austin American-Statesman reported that Harris County, home of Houston, the state’s most populous city, has 12 drop-off locations. Travis County, home of state capital Austin, has four sites to address the high demand for mail-in voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Next Monday marks the last day Texans can register to vote.

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