Judge blocks Texas governor's order limiting number of ballot drop-off sites

A federal judge blocked a ruling by Texas Governor Greg Abbott restricting the number of places voters can hand-over postal ballots in each county a month before the election.
U.S. District Court judge Robert Pitman on Friday ordered the state to be banned from implementing or enforcing the Republican governor's order, arguing that doing so would put vulnerable voters at risk. Those eligible to vote early by mail in Texas must be 65 or older, be ill or disabled, be outside their county on election days, or be incarcerated in jail but otherwise be eligible.
"By limiting the number of drop-off points to one per county, elderly and disabled voters living in the largest and most populous counties in Texas will have to travel further distances to overcrowded ballot boxes, where they would be at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus to exercise their right to vote out and make it count, "wrote Pitman.
The judge also wrote that voters run the risk of disenfranchisement "if the USPS is unable to cast their ballots on time".
PHOTO: Texas Governor Greg Abbott visits Lake Jackson, Texas on September 29, 2020. (Marie D. De Jesãºs / Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle via AP)
Pitman issued the injunction against Abbott's October 1 proclamation, which limited the number of places where eligible voters could deliver their postal ballots to a single early voting office from the following day, regardless of county size, regardless of the size of the county Size of the county. For Harris County - which is larger than the state of Rhode Island - that meant 11 such locations had to close. In Travis County, three closed, and so on, for the state's 254 counties.
Abbott said the move would strengthen security and "help stop attempts at illegal voting," while Democrats, electoral officials and advocates of voting rights accused it of causing confusion and voter repression with voting already taking place in Texas. The state also argued that concerns about USPS delays were due to "subjective fear".
On Saturday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed to stop the judge's order.
“The district court order undermines our electoral security, disrupts the democratic process and will only cause confusion among voters. Can't stand it, ”Paxton said in a statement. “Mail-in ballots are particularly vulnerable to fraud. Safeguards that ensure their safety must be upheld, and my office will continue to fight for safe, free and fair elections. "
MORE: How to vote in the 2020 elections
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a civil rights group that sued the state, called the governor's proclamation an "blatant act of discrimination".
"Governor Greg Abbott is trying to pursue the pandemic fear that is preventing Hispanics from risking their lives by voting in person," LULAC President Domingo Garcia said in a statement released Friday. Other qualified, legal voters are pulling prepare to protect their well-being by putting their ballot papers in authorized locations near them. Today's injunction guarantees that they will be able to do so. "
Texas Democratic Party leader Gilberto Hinojosa endorsed the judge's order as "common sense" and said in a statement that it "prevented the governor from establishing electoral rules after the elections began".
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins called the injunction a "victory for the right to vote".
"Seniors and voters with disabilities across Harris County need these drop-off points to safely and conveniently deliver their postal ballots during the global pandemic," Hollins said in a statement. "We shouldn't do politics with the lives of voters."
PHOTO: Voters in cars line up at a transit mail drop-off point at NRG Stadium on October 7, 2020 in Houston. (Go Nakamura / Getty Images)
Abbott's October 1 proclamation amended a July 27 resolution waiving state law restricting hand-delivery of postal ballot papers on election day, and added six more days for early face-to-face voting.
President Donald Trump has frequently attacked postal voting, reiterating unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election will result in widespread electoral fraud due to postal ballot papers expected to increase due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had not seen "coordinated national electoral fraud efforts during a major election."
Hand delivery of postal ballot papers has also been an issue in the battlefield state of Ohio, where an attempt to add ballot drop boxes is court bound.
ABC News' Matt Foster contributed to this report.
The judge is blocking the Texas governor's order limiting the number of voting slip websites originally posted on abcnews.go.com

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