Texas Supreme Court Rules Against GOP Vote Suppression Attempt

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The Texas Supreme Court has abruptly rejected a challenge to the legitimacy of nearly 127,000 Texas votes that had been contested by a handful of Republicans. These Republicans — including activist Steven Hotze, state Rep. Steve Toth, and local candidates Wendell Champion and Sharon Hemphill — had asked the court to throw out all votes that had been cast at ten drive-thru polling locations in Harris County, Texas, which set up the polling locations amidst widespread concerns about visiting in-person polling places due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

At drive-thru polling places, voters pulled up one at a time, had their identification materials checked, and then were handed an electronic voting machine by poll workers. There’s already been monumental voter turnout across Texas — in 2020 early voting alone, the state passed its total 2016 turnout. The votes that had been cast at these drive-thru polling places constitute about ten percent of all early in-person votes that were cast in Harris County, meaning that throwing the votes out could have sent shock waves through the election. A staggering number of Harris County voters would have suddenly gotten their votes tossed aside.

The Republicans behind this lawsuit (a couple of whom were behind another recently unsuccessful challenge to the same votes) alleged that the drive-thru polling locations constituted an illegal extension of curbside voting, which is a Texas service available to voters with disabilities. Local authorities countered that the drive-thru polling places are self-contained polling stations and thus exempt from curbside voting regulations. The Texas Supreme Court did not issue an opinion with its rejection of the Republicans’ request to throw out the well over 100,000 Texas votes in question, although The Texas Tribune notes that the “court has recently ruled against other last-minute challenges on voting access by noting that the cases were filed too late, and that changes to voting procedure during an election would sow voter confusion.”

The Republicans behind this lawsuit have brought a similar challenge in federal court, and a hearing in that case is scheduled for Monday — the day before Election Day. At this point, with little reason to believe that there’d be an alternative for the voters who used the contentious drive-thru polling places, the net effect of this Republican request would be arbitrarily kicking over 100,000 Texas voters out of the 2020 elections. Across the country, Republicans have been pursuing similar aims through means like lawsuits demanding strict deadlines for the receipt of mail-in ballots for counting by election authorities. Despite conspiratorial claims otherwise from Republicans, there’s no reason to automatically believe that fraud may be occurring if post-Election Day changes to vote tallies unfold. There’s a long precedent of states taking quite awhile to make final official certifications of their election results.