Election

Texas Supreme Court Says No Again to Throwing Out Drive-Thru Voting. Federal Judge Hears Case Monday Morning.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo flanked by incoming elections administrator Isabel Longoria and Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins at Sunday'spress conference.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo flanked by incoming elections administrator Isabel Longoria and Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins at Sunday'spress conference. Screenshot

Adding an incredible element of tension (some would say infuriating absurdity) to this year's elections, right wing activist Steven Hotze and three Republican candidates will continue their argument in federal court Monday morning that the nearly 127,000 drive-thru ballots already collected in Harris County should be thrown out.

Discarding the votes and in effect disenfranchising that many people would be hard to justify especially after the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court again said on Sunday that Harris County's drive-thru voting is legal. Opponents of the practice filed petitions in both state and federal court.

Hotze and his co-petitioners argue that when Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins cleared the way for people to vote on electronic ballots from inside their cars — citing safety reasons in the midst of a pandemic — his action violated federal law. Citing the U.S. Constitution, they claim that only state legislatures can decide how elections should be operated. Federal Judge Andrew Hanen will hear arguments at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Within hours of the Texas Supreme Court's Sunday announcement, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called a press conference to acknowledge that many people are asking what they should do if the federal judge says their votes are invalid. The new elections administrator Isabel Longoria who will take office November 18 and Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins accompanied her.

Calling the legal maneuvers to discard the vote "frivolous litigation," Hidalgo pledged that "We have your back," and that their legal team will be in court Monday to continue to argue the case. "It is bewildering that this is even happening," she said. "That these votes that have already been cast, that they are trying to invalidate them."

"I do acknowledge that the fact that we're even having this conversation is cause for concern."

She also pointed out that Harris County had the drive-thru option in a past runoff election. "The Secretary of State has seen our plans for months with no objection.

"We've fought to make voting safe, secure and convenient. We've invested over $30 million for triple the number of early vote locations, many more voting day locations, for drive-thru voting, for pay for election workers.

"Decades of precedent in Texas and around the country tell us that you are not supposed to invalidate ballots that have been cast," Hidalgo said. "Courts are just not supposed to do that and anything in that direction would be an outrageous act of suppression."
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing