Anyone who has been following election coverage in recent weeks would be led to believe that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is using the COVID-19 pandemic to suppress voters’ access to the polls. Headlines such as “Texas Governor Limits Ballot Drop Off Sites for Early Votes”, for which the Governor was sued on the complaint of voter suppression, have appeared regularly in recent media coverage. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had the final word, siding with the Governor.
Recently, the National Review ran the headline that “Texas Governor Greg Abbott Has Made it Easier, Not Harder, to Vote”.
So which is true? Did the Governor attempt to use his office to enact practices that are equivalent to voter suppression or did he expand voting? Let’s consider the facts:
In July, Governor Abbott expanded the early voting schedule to include an additional week of early voting, to be closer to three total weeks instead of two. Or, more specifically, from 11 days of early voting to 17 days of early voting in person.
In that same proclamation, the Governor also allowed for mail in ballots to be dropped off during the early voting period, rather than on Election Day only, at the Early Voting Clerk’s office, while the polls are open, as is written by statute.
The confusion on this issue started when many of the state’s election clerks expanded the definition of “drop off site” to include multiple drop off locations. On October 1, the Governor reminded those clerks of the Texas state law that limits these drop off locations to one location in each county only.
It’s not Gov. Abbott who “limited drop off locations” but it’s Texas Statute that makes this limitation. The reason for this is to ensure the integrity of the ballot. These ballots are intended to be mailed in, so that elderly voters or those who are unable to travel to their polling place on election day are able to vote from home. This means that each voter’s own mailbox is a drop off location. By receiving a mail in ballot, the voter is not obligated to travel to the county clerk’s office to deliver that ballot.
The message that Governor Abbott has restricted voters’ access to the polls is simply inaccurate. The truth is that the Governor has expanded the time frame for early voting.