HOUSTON – A federal judge on Monday rejected another attempt by Republicans to cancel nearly 127,000 votes in Houston because ballots were cast in polling stations set up during the pandemic.
The trial was brought by conservative Texas activists who opposed the expanded electoral approach in Harris County, where a record 1.4 million early votes have already been cast. The county is the third largest national and critical battlefield in Texas, where President Donald Trump and Republicans are preparing for the upcoming election in decades on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision to hear arguments on the verge of election day has raised concerns among voting rights activists and came after the Texas Supreme Court he rejected an almost identical challenge over the weekend.
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The decision came in response to a lawsuit by conservative GOP activists who filed a series of court calls for steps to expand voting options during the COVID-19 pandemic. The calls did not include Trump’s campaign.
Another 20,000 or more voters are expected to run in Tuesday’s election, Harris District Official Chris Hollins, the county’s top election official, said. Several voters who have already used the driving force rushed to join the growing opposition to the lawsuit, including a Houston lawyer whose wife was in her 35th week of pregnancy when she voted. She gave birth to twins on Friday.
“My vote counts,” David Hobbs said. “My wife’s vote counts.”
Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016, but opinion polls show Democrat Joe Biden is still within reach in America’s largest red state. Democrats also need to turn only nine seats to regain a majority at Texas House for the first time in 20 years, and have aggressively focused on several plants in Harris County.
Harris County has offered 10 transit sites as an alternative to its nearly 5 million population amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus. Jared Woodfill, a former chairman of the Harris County GOP, argued that the Texas election law did not explicitly allow discretionary voting, saying it was an illegal extension of the right to vote in Texas, but limited to people unable to enter because of their health. to polling stations.
Parts of the meeting were swallowed up by the debate over what exactly corresponds to the legal structure of the polling station under Texas law.
“Do you have a basic right to vote in a car?” Hanen asked the ACLU lawyer briefly.
Woodfill Court said all but one of the centers were established “in democratic areas of the county.” More than 40% of Harris County’s residents are Latino and about one in five is Black.
The trial has also raised objections from Republicans, including former US Texas spokesman Joe Strause. Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who faces the toughest re-election in his career against Democrat MJ Hegar on Tuesday, also said during the weekend’s campaign that the Texas Supreme Court had made the right decision earlier by rejecting the same challenge.
The Supreme Court of Texas, which is entirely controlled by Republicans, dismissed the same court last month and Sunday refused to repeal votes already cast. The Supreme Court of the state did not explain it his decision.
Hollins asked Republican Governor Greg Abbott to confirm that the driveways were legal, but received no response.
Texas is one of only five states that did not allow large-scale mail voting this year during a coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 18,000 people across the country. Instead, Abbott extended the early vote by one week, and this time also helped Texas surpass the total number of votes in 2016 before Tuesday’s election.
More than 9.7 million people cast early in Texas, where turnout is usually among the lowest in the country. Some election experts predict that total turnout in Texas may exceed 12 million, and Harris County officials have taken more steps than most to expand electoral access.
The county tripled the number of polling stations last week he had eight seats that remained open for 24 hours.
writer Paul J. Weber of Austin, Texas, and Jake Bleiberg of Dallas contributed to the report.