Republicans in Texas are apparently getting desperate. According to voting rights lawyer Marc Elias, “Republicans in Texas have filed TWO new lawsuits to disenfranchise thousands of Harris County citizens who voted via curbside drive-thru voting.” Drive-thru voting, which is only available in the state’s Democratic-leaning Harris County, features a station where voters can cast their ballots without leaving their vehicles. Voters move through the polling station one at a time, with poll workers checking their identification, handing them electronic voting machines, and then sending them on their way. Challenges to the validity of drive-thru voting threaten tens of thousands of Texans’ votes that have already been cast through the method.
🚨Republicans in Texas have filed TWO new lawsuits to disenfranchise thousands of Harris County citizens who voted via curbside drive-thru voting.
We cannot let them succeed. Now is the time to speak out and protect the right to vote in TX!https://t.co/iPsX8kp2Oh
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) October 29, 2020
In short: it’s yet another dirty Republican trick meant to undermine the electoral process. As a patchwork of litigation has unfolded across the country in the lead-up to Election Day, it’s become clear that the GOP strategy hinges on suppressing the vote. No matter what excuses that the Republicans present featuring dubious (at best) claims like protecting election security, the unequivocal net effect of the GOP’s actions is voter suppression. In one of the latest challenges to Harris County’s drive-thru voting locations, Texas state Rep. Steve Toth (R), Republican judicial candidate Sharen Hemphill, and Republican Congressional candidate Wendell Champion (alongside co-plaintiff and GOP activist Steven Hotze) are explicitly seeking to have a court throw out votes that have been supposedly “illegally” cast at Harris County’s drive-thru polling sites.
Republicans allege that the drive-thru polling sites are an illegal extension of curbside voting, which is a service available to Texas voters who are unable to safely and securely enter polling places. In fact, the Texas Supreme Court has already thrown out two Republican challenges to drive-thru polling places — although the court did not issue an opinion when they rejected the two previous Republican requests for action. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins (D) “has said drive-thru voting is just another polling place with a different layout and structure, and that it was approved by the Texas secretary of state’s office before being adopted,” the Austin American-Statesman reports. Texas’s current state government is led by Republicans — although that didn’t stop an unsuccessful GOP court challenge to Texas’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s extension of early voting in the state.
Despite the lack of Republican success in tamping down drive-thru voting in Harris County, Republicans have been successful in other challenges to voting access. Recently, Republicans got the pre-Barrett U.S. Supreme Court to strike down an extension of the deadline for receiving mail-in ballots for counting in Wisconsin. Now, ballots must be received by the state’s election authorities by Election Day in order to remain valid. Ballots always had to be postmarked by Election Day, and the deadline extension had been meant to help deal with slowed down mail service.