Federal judge denies GOP effort to toss 127,000 votes in Texas


A car-side voting location is empty at Prairie View A&M University Northwest polling station in Houston on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. The location was one of the eight Harris County’s 24-hour locations. ( Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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DALLAS (NEXSTAR) — A federal judge has ruled nearly 127,000 ballots cast at drive-thru voting places in the Houston area will count.

According to reporter Ed Lavandera, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen handed down his decision Monday — 24 hours after the Texas Supreme Court rejected the request from GOP activists and candidates without explaining its decision.

The Republican-led effort described the voting method used in Harris County as “illegal.”

Harris County offered 10 drive-thru locations where its nearly 5 million residents could cast ballots in their cars instead of going inside polling centers. The accommodation aimed to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. Woodfill, a former chairman of the Harris County GOP, argued that Texas election law makes no explicit allowances for drive-thru voting and that only voters who need assistance are eligible to cast a ballot curbside.

Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016 but polls have shown Democrat Joe Biden still within reach in America’s biggest red state. Democrats also need to flip only nine seats to reclaim a majority in the Texas House for the first time in 20 years, and have aggressively targeted several races in Harris County.

Jared Woodfill, an attorney for the Republicans who brought the state and federal cases, argued in the lawsuit that all but one of the drive-thru centers were set up “in Democrat areas of the county.” More than 40% of Harris County residents are Latino, and about one in five residents are Black.

Counting the drive-thru votes, Woodfill argued, would “call into question the integrity and legality of a federal election.”

Some Republicans have denounced the effort to throw the votes out. On Sunday, former Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus called the suits “patently wrong.”

“I hope all elected statewide leaders in the Texas Republican Party will stand up against these desperate tactics,” Straus, a moderate who retired last year, wrote on Facebook.

More than 9.7 million people have cast early ballots in Texas, where turnout typically ranks among the lowest in the country. Some elections experts predict that total turnout in Texas could surpass 12 million, and Harris County officials have taken more steps than most to expand voting access.

The county tripled the number of polling places and last week had eight locations that stayed open for 24 hours.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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