On Thursday, October 1—on the eve of a nationally contentious election—Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting all 254 Texas counties from having more than one drop-off location for voters casting absentee ballots.
The Governor’s actions, at the 11th hour prior to the election, hurt our most vulnerable voters, including those with disabilities and the elderly.
Record numbers of Texans have requested mail-in ballots as our state bears the brunt of COVID-19, and the deadline to request mail-in ballots is still weeks away on October 23. Vulnerable Americans fear the risk of voting in-person this election, and consequently, state leaders should be protecting the right to cast a ballot—not diminishing it.
Additionally, the U.S. Postal Service has become a political football, with fears of reductions of service challenging America’s faith in its ability to get our nation’s ballots to local elections offices in time to be counted.
Hidalgo County was not planning to implement more than one drop-off location, but some of our largest counties were, namely Harris and Travis County. These counties together have six million people and are well-known for their heavy traffic congestion. Typical commutes on weekdays can take upwards of two hours to drive across these counties. Why should anyone, especially our elderly and disabled Texans, be forced to drive long distances to safely ensure their vote is counted?
Governor Abbott has claimed this change was necessary to ensure election integrity, but he has offered no evidence of any fraud. Additionally, the procedures for delivering an absentee ballot are already very strict. Voters must present an approved form of identification, show up during specific hours, and may only deliver their own mail-in ballot. Suddenly changing the election rules just weeks before an election, will only serve to decrease the confidence of Texas voters and is voter suppression: plain and simple. This is all part of an effort led by President Trump and other Republicans to create confusion about the safety of mail-in ballots.
Earlier this year, Texas did extend the early voting period by six days, but our state has not done enough to give Texas voters options to safely cast their ballots during the ongoing pandemic.
Meanwhile, other states have expanded absentee voting or implemented more drop-off locations. This last-minute political decision by the Governor raises serious questions about how fearful he must be of the upcoming election results. Changing the rules at the last minute undermines the trust that Texans have in the political process, and that is simply unacceptable.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg, Texas. It appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s permission. Canales can be reached via email at: [email protected]
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