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All but one drive-through voting site in Harris County closed amid Texas legal battle

The Hill logo The Hill 11/3/2020 Celine Castronuovo
a group of people standing on the side of a road: All but one drive-through voting site in Harris County closed amid Texas legal battle © Getty Images All but one drive-through voting site in Harris County closed amid Texas legal battle

A Houston-area county clerk announced late Monday that he would close almost all drive-thru voting sites on Election Day, hours after a federal judge ruled against Republican plaintiffs who sought to throw out 127,000 ballots cast by drive-thru voting in the Democratic-leaning county.

In a series of tweets announcing the decision, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins (D) wrote that he "cannot in good faith encourage voters to cast their votes in tents if that puts their votes at risk."

"My 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," Hollins explained.

The one drive-thru location that will remain open is the Toyota Center, which has "walls and a roof" and would fit the judge's definition of a "building," Hollins said in the tweets.

District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled earlier Monday that four plaintiffs, three of whom are GOP candidates, lacked standing in the case.

The plaintiffs had claimed the drive-thru polling stations were an illegal expansion of curbside voting, an option Texas makes available only to physically disabled voters.

"I'm not happy with that finding," Hannen, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said. "But the way I look at it, the law requires it."

The judge also said the plaintiffs had not filed the challenge in a timely manner, noting that the drive-thru polling option was announced over the summer.

Later Monday evening, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit denied the plaintiff's motion to appeal the lower court's decision, although the Republicans limited their appeal request to only asking that drive-thru voting be blocked on Election Day.

Hollins had praised the district court's decision in his tweets announcing that most of the drive-thru centers in Harris County would be closed on Nov. 3, calling the ruling a "huge win for democracy."

Hollins added in the tweets that he had "consulted with my legal team and multiple election law experts who have reiterated the legality of drive-thru voting."

--John Kruzel contributed to this report.

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