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Harris County closes 9 of 10 drive-thru voting sites

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  • Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said he “cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in [drive-thru] tents if that puts their votes at risk.”
  • Accordingly, Hollins said he was closing nine of 10 drive-thru voting locations. Only the Houston Toyota Center will remain open.
  • The move comes after Texas Republicans had sued to invalidate ballots cast at drive-thru voting sites.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Harris County, Texas, is shuttering nine of its 10 drive-thru voting sites on Election Day, County Clerk Chris Hollins said Monday night, a move that comes after Texas Republicans had fought, unsuccessfully, to have more than 120,000 ballots cast via vehicle thrown out.

While insisting the sites were legal, Hollins, a Democrat, cited ongoing litigation as a reason for caution.

“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,” he said on Twitter. “I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in [drive-thru] tents if that puts their vote at risk.”

Earlier on Monday, US Judge Andrew Hanen rejected a Republican lawsuit that had sought to invalidate ballots that had already been cast at drive-thru voting centers, admonishing the plaintiffs for bringing the case so close to Election Day.

However, Hanen “ordered county officials to maintain a registry of the votes that were cast at drive-thru polling places in case the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion,” Insider’s Jacob Shamsian reported.

“I find that when you balance the harms, you’ve got to weigh in favor of counting the votes,” Hanen said. However, “If I were voting tomorrow . . . I would not vote in a drive-through just out of my concern as to whether that’s legal or not,” he added.

Rep. Steve Toth and several right-wing activists then appealed the decision and filed an emergency motion, limiting their arguments to whether drive-thru voting should be allowed, specifically, on Election Day.

In their emergency motion, the plaintiffs maintained that drive-thru voting “cheapens the electoral process” and detracts “from the traditional respect for Election Day.” In addition, they argue that the state legislature restricts this form of voting to the physically handicapped or in cases where voting in person “would create a likelihood of injuring the voter’s health”; they insisted that COVID-19 does not pose such a threat.

At issue is whether drive-thru voting tents had constituted “buildings” under Texas law. To be sure votes on Tuesday are counted, Hollins said he would only be opening one drive-thru location, at the Houston Toyota Center, which arguably fits the more conservative definition.

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