HOUSTON – Advocates and elected officials in Houston are calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to rescind the order he issued last week that limits the number of mail-in ballot drop-off sites to one per county.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-Houston) were joined by other elected officials and members of the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity to decry what they described as efforts by Abbott to suppress the Black vote.
“What the governor has done is wrong,” Turner said.
Abbott said Thursday that his order is meant to strengthen voting security and prevent illegal voting attempts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Most people who spoke at Monday’s news conference highlighted the sheer size of Harris County when making the case against reducing the number of drop-off sites in the county from 12 to one.
“This is something that borders on insanity,” Green said.
Green said its time for Texas to be brought back under the preclearance clause of the Voting Rights Act, which requires any changes to voting law in an overseen state to be approved by federal regulators.
Max Miller Jr., leader of the ministers' association, called Abbott’s order “crooked” and “modern-day voter suppression,” saying that Abbott knows his order is directed at the Black community.
“It’s sickening,” Miller said. “It’s frightening.”
Turner said he knows of three lawsuits that have already been filed to reverse Abbott’s order and that he has instructed the city’s legal department to participate in those lawsuits.
“This is clearly voter suppression,” Turner said. “Quite frankly, unless we all stand up and fight it aggressively, then it will always be something else.”
Two federal lawsuits allege the same, including one filed Monday on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League, Common Cause Texas and one voter.
“The state of Texas should be working to ensure safe and accessible voting for all Texans,” said Cheryl Drazin, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Division," in a statement.
“The governor’s order does the opposite. Limiting the number of drop-off sites available to absentee voters reduces the options Texans have to participate in the 2020 election without risking their health,” Drazin continued.
Meantime, a hearing has been set for a separate lawsuit filed last week in Federal Court in Austin.
A judge will hear arguments Oct. 8, at 1 p.m.