Texas Republicans have asked a federal judge to throw out at least 117,000 ballots cast in Harris County, a heavily Democratic area that has experienced an unprecedented surge in early voting this month. The brazen effort to undo legally cast ballots in a diverse, populous county is an eleventh-hour attempt to diminish Joe Biden’s chances of carrying the swing state on Nov. 3. Republicans claim that Harris County’s use of drive-thru voting violates the U.S. Constitution, requiring the judge to throw out every ballot cast this way—more than 117,000 as of Friday. This argument is outrageous and absurd. But the case landed in front of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, one of the most notoriously partisan conservatives in the federal judiciary. Democrats have good reason to fear that Hanen will order the mass nullification of ballots as early as Nov. 2, when he has scheduled a hearing.
Because Texas strictly limits mail-in voting, Harris County—which has a population of over 4.7 million people—has sought to make in-person voting safer during the pandemic. Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, who runs the county’s elections, established 10 drive-thru voting locations for the 2020 general election. Drivers pull into a large tent, where election officials confirm their identity, then give them privacy to vote. The process has proved wildly popular.
Harris County raised the idea of drive-thru voting in June, and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs promptly approved it. The county tested it in July and approved it in August. Yet Republicans did not contest drive-thru voting in court until Oct. 15, two days after the start of early voting. On that day, the Harris County Republican Party, joined by several GOP operatives, asked the Texas Supreme Court to halt drive-thru voting. The court, which is entirely Republican, refused, over a single dissent. Republicans then went back to the Texas Supreme Court, asking it to toss out every ballot cast via drive-thru voting. The court is currently considering that request, though it seems unlikely to side with the plaintiffs given its previous decision.
A stunning, last-minute effort to nullify Democratic votes in a key swing state. t.co/JDzXFiaK9V
— Slate (@Slate) October 31, 2020