Updated Nov 3, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Appeals court rejects GOP effort to block drive-through voting in Texas' biggest county

People carry boxes of ballots
Poll station workers receive voting machines, registration paper and disinfection products on Nov. 1 in Harris County, Texas. Photo: Zeng Jingning/China News Service via Getty Images

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied late Monday a Republican effort to block drive-through voting in Harris Country, Texas, on Election Day.

Where it stands: The county will allow one drive-through voting at only one location on Election Day — instead of 10 — to stay fully within state code that allows the practice in "buildings," as the other centers were in tents, according to county clerk Chris Hollins.

The state of play: The appeals court ruling came after a federal district judge rejected a similar GOP request to invalidate 127,000 ballots that had already been cast via drive-through voting stations across the county.

  • The Texas Supreme Court also denied an effort by Republicans to toss out the drive-through votes.
  • Republicans argued that Harris County had violated state law by setting up drive-through voting sites, which they claimed favored Democrats, according to the New York Times.
  • Curbside voting is allowed under state law for voters who are sick or disabled. The Republicans argued that "a voter’s general fear or lack of immunity from COVID-19 is not a 'disability' as defined by the Election Code," and thus the pandemic should not be an excuse for drive-through voting.

Between the lines: Harris County, which includes the city of Houston, is the most populous county in Texas and voted for Hillary Clinton over President Trump by 160,000 ballots in 2016, according to Bloomberg.

  • Texas, which hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976, has been rated a toss-up by the Cook Political Report. Joe Biden securing the state's 38 electoral votes would virtually guarantee his path to the White House.

The big picture: Dozens of lawsuits related to voting rights continue to be litigated all over the country, as Republicans sue to block efforts to expand voting access — such as extending mail-in ballot deadlines — that have been instituted during the pandemic.

Editor's note: The item and headline have been corrected to reflect the fact that the appeals court ruling only addressed whether drive-through voting centers should remain open (not whether the votes previously cast by drive-through voting should be invalidated).

Go deeper