Demonstrators holding signs saying “Count Every Vote” gathered outside a federal courthouse in downtown Houston while a Harris County court will cast 127,000 drive-thru votes on Monday.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen is expected to decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of premature ballots cast through Harris County’s drive-thru voting system in less than 24 hours until election day.
On Sunday, the Texas Supreme Court rejected the Republicans’ attempt to throw out the votes from Harris County, the state’s most populous and largely Democratic district. The Texas Supreme Court is composed entirely of Republicans.
The motion by several conservative Republican activists and candidates argued that the drive-thru election violated the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs argued that the program, which was introduced after a test during the July runoff election, was an extension of the curbside election and, under state electoral laws, should be available only to voters with disabilities.
However, the Harris County Clerk’s Office argued that drive-thru spaces should be distinct from curbs and accessible to all voters.
âCount Every Voteâ protest before the Federal Court in downtown Houston. Important court hearing today on the fate of 127,000 Drive Thru ballots cast in Harris County. pic.twitter.com/BHtfAnpZem
– ed lavandera (@edlavaCNN) November 2, 2020
Rejecting these ballots will disenfranchise a large number of voters, as these votes represent approximately 10 percent of all personally cast votes in Harris County’s early voting process.
Prior to the hearing, Hanen said the plaintiffs had to convince him that the district had a “bad motive” to allow a drive-thru vote.
The Democrats hope that the ruling of the state’s purely Republican court will set a good omen for their fight at the federal level.
The legal battle in Harris County will be monumental for Texas voters.
In 2016, President Donald Trump won the state with a 9-point victory, some 800,000 votes, over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Since this year’s race between Trump and the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, is even closer and the Democrats have a real chance to conquer Texas, the 127,000 votes could be of the utmost importance.
“Voting is a fundamental right in our country. The Democratic Party of Texas is on the side of democracy. We are on the side of all those who want the voices of Texans to be heard. We need to turn ballot box protest into action,” a Texas Democratic Party spokesman said in an e-mail to Washington Newsday.
On Monday morning, the Harris County Democrats arrived at a destroyed headquarters after the Texas Supreme Court convicted the Republicans of the 127,000 ballots.
Texas voters faced a series of fierce legal battles in the run-up to the election after the rules for early voting were changed.
Last week, the state Supreme Court upheld Governor Greg Abbott’s order that there should be only one postal ballot drop-off per county in Texas counties. It was argued that limiting the drop-off of mailboxes would suppress voters in larger, Democratic counties like Harris County, where there were 12 boxes at the time of Abbott’s order.