A federal judge on Monday rejected a bid from a group of Republicans to throw out ballots cast at Harris County’s drive-through polling sites but election officials shuttered most of the locations over concerns about further litigation, The Texas Tribune reports.
A conservative activist and three Republican candidates sued to throw out 127,000 ballots cast at the drive-through locations in Texas’ most populous county, arguing that they were an illegal expansion of curbside voting, which is limited only to people with disabilities and illness, and that the tents where most of the sites are housed do not qualify as “buildings” under election law.
The Texas Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit and, on Monday, federal judge Andrew Hanen similarly denied the request.
Most drive-thru sites shuttered:
Hanen ruled that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to bring the lawsuit and said he would not throw out ballots already cast but suggested that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals could reverse the decision and lead him to ban the use of the sites on Election Day.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins preemptively shuttered nine of the 10 drive-through sites over concerns that further litigation could invalidate the votes.
"This evening, Judge Hanen… stated his view that the tents that house most of the drive-thru voting centers would not qualify as 'buildings,' which are required for Election Day polling places," he said. "My job is to protect the right to vote for all Harris County voters, and that includes those who are going to vote on Election Day. I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk. "
The state will keep open its drive-through polling site at the Toyota Center, which is the only location that would qualify as a “building.” There are 800 walk-in locations still open.
Litigation still ongoing:
After Hanen’s ruling and Hollins’ announcement, a three-judge panel on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the GOP appeal to shutter the sites on Election Day.
But the litigation is not quite over.
After the ruling, the plaintiffs filed a petition to have the case reheard by the full 5th Circuit Court.