Washington, DC — Today, Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James E. Clyburn, and Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney sent a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott urging him to rescind a proclamation he issued last week requiring counties to close all but one mail-in ballot drop-off location.
“At this late hour, the restrictions you have imposed are fundamentally unfair to voters, simultaneously restricting their ability to cast ballots and increasing the risk of voters and poll workers becoming infected with the coronavirus,” the Chairs wrote. “Your action appears to be a last-ditch effort to suppress Texans’ ability to vote.”
On October 1, 2020, Governor Abbott issued a proclamation requiring early vote-by-mail ballots that are returned in-person to be delivered to “a single early voting clerk’s office” location in each county. In a statement accompanying the proclamation, Governor Abbott described the order as a step “to strengthen ballot security protocols” and “help stop attempts at illegal voting.”
However, vote-by-mail ballot fraud is essentially non-existent, and Texas already has stringent controls for the return of early vote-by-mail ballots.
Newly released evidence from Texas county officials shows that the Governor’s claims have no basis. The Chairs disclosed a survey of Texas election county officials conducted by the Texas Secretary of State, showing that not one of Texas’s 254 county officials identified any concerns about the security of ballot drop-off locations in the survey. Instead, county officials pointed to problems with recruiting sufficient election workers to staff polling locations and having enough polling places with adequate space to allow for social distancing.
Despite the pandemic, the Governor’s proclamation will force voters to congregate at a single county clerk’s office to deliver mail-in ballots. In Harris County, which includes the city of Houston and has more than 4.7 million residents, 12 locations will be consolidated into one. Travis County, which has a population of 1.2 million, will be forced to consolidate four sites into one. Because most voters returning their mail-in ballots are over 65 years old or disabled, the burden of traveling potentially long distances to one location will fall on those most vulnerable to the health risks of the coronavirus.
The Chairs continued: “Your last-minute restriction on casting early vote-by-mail ballots flies in the face of CDC guidance and the concerns of county election officials seeking to keep voters and election workers safe.”
The proclamation falls most heavily on populous counties with more substantial minority populations. Given that several counties have been advertising mail-in ballot drop-off locations for weeks, this late change is likely to result in voter suppression.
The Chairs requested that the Governor confirm by October 13 whether he will rescind his proclamation. The Chairs also requested that the Governor provide all documents and communications related to the proclamation and the decision to restrict drop-off locations for early vote-by-mail ballots.
Click here to read today’s letter.
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