Harris County closes all but 1 drive-thru polling site amid GOP legal pushback
The move came after an attempt to have nearly 127,000 ballots already cast at those spots thrown out.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Harris County, the largest county in Texas, has closed nine of its 10 drive-through polling stations.
The decision, made by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, came after Republicans challenged the validity and necessity of those locations. The county, which includes Houston, is a Democratic stronghold.
A federal judge denied an attempt to have nearly 127,000 ballots already cast at drive-through locations thrown out. However, Republican challengers are continuing to push back against the validity of those ballots.
The clash was sparked by previous Texas legal precedent which said Texas polling locations must have walls and a roof. The county’s remaining open drive-through location is at the Toyota Center, which has both.
While Republicans were not successful in getting the previous ballots thrown out, Hollins made the decision to close those sites in case legal challenges continue putting additional ballots at risk.
On Twitter, Hollins, who is Black, wrote that his “job is to protect the right to vote for all Harris County voters, and that includes those who are going to vote on Election Day. I cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk.”
Hollins said that while drive-in polling places are “a safe and convenient option for Harris County voters” during the coronavirus pandemic, the county has “800 walk-in voting centers available for Election Day that we have worked tirelessly to make safe for voters and election workers.”
Harris County residents and others who replied to Hollins’ tweets praised his work. One resident wrote, “Thank you for your hard work and dedication to making it easy for Harris County voters and protecting their votes against irresponsible court challenges.”
Hollins encouraged Harris County residents to stay in line until polls close at 7 p.m.
The Houston Chronicle has noted that more than 20,000 voters cast ballots in Harris County in the first hour polls opened Tuesday morning.