Judge rejects GOP attempt to toss 127K drive-thru ballots in Texas
A federal judge on Monday ruled against Republican plaintiffs who sought to throw out 127,000 ballots cast by drive-thru voting in a Democratic-leaning Texas county. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled Monday that the plaintiffs lacked standing in the case and that the votes in Harris County would stand.
The four plaintiffs, three of which are GOP candidates, had claimed the drive-thru polling stations were an illegal expansion of curbside voting, an option Texas makes available only to physically disabled voters.
"I'm not happy with that finding,” Hannen, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said. “But the way I look at it, the law requires it.”
The judge also said the plaintiffs had not filed the challenge in a timely manner, noting that the drive-thru polling option was announced over the summer.
The Texas Democratic Party hailed the decision in a statement but said it “never should have been an issue in the first place.”
“The ruling to let the nearly 127,000 drive-thru votes stand was the correct decision but it doesn’t change a simple fact: This should have never been an issue in the first place,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement.
“Texans who lawfully voted at drive-through locations should have never had to fear that their votes wouldn’t be counted and their voices wouldn’t be heard,” he added. “This lawsuit was shameful and it should have never seen the light of day.”
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins (D), the defendant in the challenge, offered a more succinct response, tweeting the “eyes” emoji as the decision was announced.
— Chris Hollins (@CGHollins) November 2, 2020
The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court previously rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to drive-thru voting at the state level on Sunday.
The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Republican bid to block a mail-ballot extension in North Carolina, a day after rejecting a similar GOP effort in the key battleground state. The court's three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — would have granted the Republican request. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the bench Tuesday, took no part in considering the case.
Republicans see a path running through Michigan and Minnesota to hold a slim Senate majority in the next Congress. The odds are stacked against them, and many see the GOP as the underdog in the fight for control of the Senate. But Republicans think that even if as many as four GOP incumbents go down in defeat next week, they can keep their majority by ousting Sen. Gary Peters (D) in Michigan or Sen. Tina Smith (D) in Minnesota.
Prominent Republican pollster Frank Luntz blasted President Trump and his campaign on Tuesday for focusing on Hunter Biden in the stretch run to Election Day, calling Trump’s campaign the worst he’s ever seen and saying the president’s advisers should be “brought up on charges of political malpractice.” Speaking at a briefing for the British strategic advising company Global Counsel, Luntz said Trump’s advisers have “their heads up their asses” if they think Hunter Biden will be a winning issue for them.
Texas is already one of the hardest places in America to vote, and Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, made it even harder. The announcement from Abbott, a Republican, limits an executive order from July that made it modestly easier for voters to return their ballots during the pandemic. Texas usually only lets voters return their mail-in ballots in person on election day, but Abbott’s July order said voters could return their ballots in person to the election clerk’s office earlier. He also extended early voting by six days.