Early Drive-Through Ballots In Texas Allowed To Be Counted, But No Drive-Through Option On Election Day

(JustPatriots.com)- Texas’ most populous county has decided to shut down nine of the 10 drive-through voting locations for Election Day.

The decision by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins comes after a federal judge ruled Monday not to invalidate the 127,000 ballots already cast at these sites, but said he’d rule against allowing that voting method on Election Day.

On Twitter, Hollins announced he “cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk.”

Republicans were challenging Harris County’s 127,000 ballots that were cast via drive-through locations for early voting. Over the weekend, the Texas state Supreme Court denied the GOP request.

On Monday, federal Judge Andrew Hanen also rejected the request from the GOP to invalidate those votes. While he dismissed the petition on technical grounds, saying the GOP didn’t have a legal basis for the challenge, he said he’d rule against allowing drive-through voting on Election Day.

In his ruling, Hanen said:

“When you balance the harms you’ve got to weigh in favor of that – in counting the votes.”

He was alluding to the fact that so many people had already voted at drive-through locations, which have been open since mid-October. If he had invalidated those ballots, he said, he may be preventing people from voting altogether, since the decision would come so close to Election Day.

He explained in his ruling:

“A lot of people would say, ‘Gee, if I had known there was a question about voting drive-in, I would have parked my car and walked to the polls.”

Hanen also admitted the case could be appealed to a higher court based in New Orleans. As such, he suggested if that happened – and the case was returned to him – he would potentially have to stop drive-through voting on Election Day in Harris County.

The judge quoted state law, which requires all ballots to be cast within a building.

“I don’t find a tent to be a building,” he said.

Hanen also advised that he wouldn’t vote in a drive-through location in Harris County on Election day “out of my concern whether that’s legal or not.” In saying that, he ordered election officials in the county to keep records of any ballots cast at those drive-through sits on Tuesday, just in case future legal challenges were issued.

That, of course, was before Hollins decided to shut down a majority of the drive-through polling sites on his own – after originally saying he’d keep them open. The only one that remains open is the Toyota Center because it has “walls and a roof.” A spokesperson for Hollins said that would fit Hanen’s description that voting had to take place within a “structure.”

Republicans in Texas dropped their request to invalidate the 127,000 early ballots cast via drive-through locations, but tried to have those locations blocked for Election Day by a federal appeals court. That request was denied Tuesday morning by a panel of judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals.