A federal judge ruled against a last desperate effort by Texas Republicans to cast 127,000 ballots that had already been cast through drive-thru polling stations in the state’s most populous county.
The last-minute hearing, 24 hours before election day, brought the final decision on these controversial votes in the latest available lawsuit, in which the GOP plaintiffs argued that the drive-thru election was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the votes in Harris County would be counted despite the Republicans’ efforts to invalidate these ballots in the largely Democratic district. Hanen, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said he did not believe the plaintiffs were entitled to sue.
“Weighing the damage, one must weigh in favor when the votes are counted. I find no harm to the defendant,” Hanen said.
Before the hearing, he told the Republican plaintiffs that they had to convince him that Harris County had “evil motive” to allow drive-thru votes.
The ruling follows the decision of the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court on Sunday, which also rejected the GOP petition to deny these votes.
Despite the victory for the Democrats, the state party leader argues that the suit should never have been brought.
“The decision to leave the nearly 127,000 drive-thru votes standing was the right decision, but it does not change a simple fact: this should not have been an issue in the first place,” said Texas Democratic Party of Texas leader Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “Texans who legally vote in drive-through locations should never have had to fear that their votes would not be counted and that their votes would not be heard. This lawsuit was shameful, and it should never have seen the light of day”.
Hinojosa continued: “Once again, Texas Republicans tried to threaten Texans’ right to vote and they lost, but this election is not over. We must send them a message and vote them out. The future of our state is now completely in our hands.
Monday’s decision is a victory for the Texas Democrats, who suffered a blow last week when the state Supreme Court upheld Governor Greg Abbott’s order limiting the distribution of one ballot box per county to one ballot box.
Joe Biden’s campaign called the Hanen ruling a victory for supporters of the Democratic candidate.
“Today is a victory for Texas voters and the more than 120,000 Texans who played by the rules, made a drive-in election plan and exercised their constitutional right,” the campaign stated in a campaign statement. “Make no mistake: this is not a partisan victory.