Citing the fear of future legal challenges, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins announced via Twitter late Monday night that all but one of the 10 drive-thru voting locations within the county would be shut down on Election Day.
Despite Monday’s federal court ruling that said the nearly 127,000 votes cast via drive-thru voting in the county would be counted, Hollins said that after consulting with the county’s legal team and election law experts, he would close all drive-thru voting centers except for the one located in the Toyota Center’s parking garage.
Defending his decision, Hollins referenced language in U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling that questioned whether the large temporary tent structures voters pulled up to at most of the county’s drive-thru locations qualify as “buildings.” Texas election law requires that votes be cast in buildings, Hanen said, and that while he ruled that all of the drive-thru votes cast during early voting would be counted, he hinted that he would have ruled to block drive-thru voting on Election Day itself if he’d been asked to do so.
The Toyota Center parking garage was chosen as the sole drive-thru voting site to remain open on Election Day, Hollins said, because it is undeniably a building. He explained in a series of tweets Monday night that while his office was still 100 percent certain that drive-thru voting is legal, he decided to close the nine other locations out of a fear that a future legal challenge might seek to invalidate votes that would have been cast at the nine closed sites.
“My job is to protect the right to vote for all Harris County voters, and that includes those who are going to vote on Election Day,” Hollins said. “I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk.”
“The Toyota Center DTV site fits the Judge’s definition of a “building”: it is “a structure with walls and a roof” and “a permanent structure.” It is thus unquestionably a suitable location for Election Day voting,” Hollins continued.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo expressed her support for Hollins's decision. "I support the Clerk's Office decision to halt 9 of 10 drive thru voting locations on Election Day," Hidalgo wrote on Twitter Monday. "Judge Hanen made it clear in his formal ruling this evening that future attempts to invalidate votes will focus on votes cast at 9 of 10 drive-thru locations on Election Day."
Hanen’s Monday ruling in favor of counting the drive-thru votes cast before Election Day was appealed by plaintiff Steve Hotze to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court rejected that appeal late Monday night.
In addition to the sole drive-thru voting location, Harris County has 806 voting locations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.
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