Federal Court Rules Against Last-Minute GOP Voter Sabotage Plot

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In a late Monday night ruling just hours before Election Day polls opened across the United States, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request from a handful of Texas Republicans to stop drive-thru voting in Harris County, Texas. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest stop for the case following a defeat in a lower-level federal court, where District Judge Andrew Hanen — a George W. Bush appointee — rejected the Republican plaintiffs’ request to invalidate almost 127,000 votes that had been cast at drive-thru polling places in Harris County during Texas’s early voting period. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did not explain their rejection of the Republican plaintiffs’ request.

The GOP litigants — including activist Steven Hotze, state Rep. Steve Toth, and others — have claimed that drive-thru polling locations are an illegal extension of curbside voting, which is a service available to Texas voters who are disabled. Although Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins (D) continues to insist that drive-thru polling stations are perfectly legal, he announced late Monday that most drive-thru stations in Harris County would be closed on Election Day in order to protect additional votes from potential future litigation. Hollins said that “it’s… important that every voter who casts their ballot can do so with the peace of mind that their votes will be counted.”

Judge Hanen concluded, in his earlier ruling, that the Republican challengers did not have an appropriate legal standing on which to base their case, since they could prove no specific injury from the ballots cast at the drive-thru polling locations. Hanen indicated that even if he did conclude that the Republican plaintiffs had the standing to bring their case, he would not have granted their request to throw out the almost 127,000 Harris County votes in question.

As a whole, Texas surpassed their total 2016 turnout before Election Day even got underway. Harris County is heavily populated and leans Democratic — Hillary Clinton won the county in 2016 — so disqualifying almost 127,000 votes from the area could have disproportionately harmed Democratic voters. In their final pre-Election Day forecast, FiveThirtyEight gave Biden a 38 percent — or about one-in-three — chance of scoring an upset win in Texas. Although top Republicans are not specifically supporting the effort to throw out the about 127,000 Harris County votes, party leaders have backed crusades against voting access in other states, like Nevada, where the Trump campaign unsuccessfully tried to get a judge to force Clark County authorities to stop using a particular signature scanning machine while processing ballots. Removing the machine from the equation could have meant that authorities would end up unable to count all ballots in time.