MALC joins lawsuit against Texas governor’s ballot drop-off rules

The CW39 Houston

Border residents in Hidalgo County can drop off ballots any time, election administrator said

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, wears a state-emblazoned face mask after delivering remarks at a press conference on Sept. 17, 2020, during which he announced expanded reopenings for most businesses across Texas. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A group of Hispanic lawmakers from Texas have joined a lawsuit challenging Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s proclamation that limits each county to just one drop-off location for mail-in ballots this presidential election.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) announced Tuesday that it has joined the lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas by the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens, National League of United Latin American Citizens, League of Women Voters of Texas, and two voters.

MALC is comprised of over 40 members of the Democratically-led Texas House of Representatives and is the second-largest caucus in the Texas House. They called Abbott’s Friday announcement a form of “voter suppression tactics” that “will force voters across the state to submit their ballots at inconvenient locations.”

Texas Rep. Rafael Anchía

“Voting is fundamental to our democracy. Gov. Abbott’s mandate to remove secure ballot boxes damages our state’s ability to hold free and fair elections. His proclamation seeks to halt a process that is meant to encourage voting and save lives during a pandemic,” Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchía, chairman of MALC, said in a statement.

“The Mexican American Legislative Caucus has consistently defended Texans’ access to the ballot box and ensuring that voter suppression tactics do not hinder our constitutional right to engage in the democratic process,” said Anchía, a Democrat from western Dallas.

The organization cited Harris County, with 4.7 million people, which had 12 drop-off locations prior to the new order “will now only have a single drop-off location in a county larger than many states.”

Hidalgo County, on the South Texas border with Mexico, only had one drop-off location — at the county election’s offices in Edinburg — prior to Abbott’s Friday announcement, Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramón, told Border Report.

El Paso County Elections Administrator Lisa Wise said her county also has just one drop-off location, the El Paso County Courthouse.

In July, Abbott extended the early-voting period by six days as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Texas Election Code, early voting should begin on the 17th day of the month prior to Election Day. If the 17th lands a weekend — Oct. 17 is a Saturday — then early should begin the following Monday (Oct. 19). In his announcement, Abbott said early voting would run from Oct. 13-30, a decision that has drawn lawsuits from fellow Republicans.

Hidalgo County Elections Administrator Yvonne Ramón (Courtesy Photo)

On Oct. 1, Abbott amended his proclamation, extending the timeframe for voters to hand-deliver their mail-in ballots to whenever they receive their ballot. Normally, under the Texas Election Code, voters are limited to bring their mail ballots to the county’s Election Office only on Election Day, Ramón said.

“What the proclamation did, aside from extending early voting by six days, was also extend the drop-off window. For this election only, mail ballot voters can bring their ballot to the main election office at any time. They don’t have to wait for the early voting period to begin. By dropping off the ballot at the main office, this translates to voting by mail, contrary to taking the ballot to a polling location during the election.”

That’s an important distinction to make, Ramón said. Voters will not be able to drop off their mail-in ballot at their election polling site on Election Day or during early voting. Instead, those who try will be forced to vote in person.

“Polling sites will not be able to accept a ballot by mail,” she said.

Early voting begins in Hidalgo County is from Oct. 13-30. Election Day is Nov. 3.

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