Texas Federal Judge Rejects Lawsuit to Toss 127,000 Drive-Thru Votes

Demonstrators stand across the street from the federal courthouse in Houston, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, before a hearing in federal court involving drive-thru ballots cast in Harris County.

Demonstrators stand across the street from the federal courthouse in Houston, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, before a hearing in federal court involving drive-thru ballots cast in Harris County. AP Photo

 

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Students in Los Angeles get bad grades at remote school … New virus restrictions in Massachusetts … Trump administration approves Georgia’s Affordable Care Act proposal.

A federal judge in Texas on Monday denied a move by Republican candidates to throw out 127,000 votes already cast at drive-thru polling sites in Harris County, one of the state’s largely Democratic areas.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen rejected the lawsuit, saying the candidates and an activist who filed the lawsuit didn’t have legal standing to challenge the voting procedure. But he also voiced some skepticism about whether Texas law allows drive-thru voting, saying if he had taken up the broader legal issues he would have allowed the votes that have already been cast to be counted, but shut down the drive-thrus on Election Day. "If I were voting tomorrow … I would not vote in a drive-thru just out of my concern as to whether that’s illegal or not," he said, noting the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could take a dimmer view. The plaintiffs did appeal, but on Monday night the 5th Circuit also declined to issue a preliminary injunction. 

Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins after the Hanen ruling said the drive-thrus will be open on Tuesday, but by the end of the night decided to only keep one site, concerned that the appellate court could reverse the judge. Hollins also criticized the plaintiffs for bringing the challenge. "Their motive is not to win. Their motive is to delay. Their motive is to confuse. Their motive is to ultimately reduce the odds that people are going to exercise their constitutional right to vote," he said.

Jared Woodfill, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said local officials are just trying to help Democrats win the election. “If Harris County goes against Trump in large enough numbers, then we could lose Texas. And if Trump loses Texas then we lose the national election,” he said.

Voting in Harris County, where Houston is located, has been the repeated source of litigation in the weeks leading up to Election Day. A record 1.4 million votes have already been cast in the county. The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday also upheld the 127,000 votes from the drive-thru polling sites. Previously, voting groups challenged an order by Gov. Greg Abbott to limit each county to one location to drop off an absentee ballot, arguing that Harris County is the size of Rhode Island and getting to that one site would be a hardship. That order, however, was upheld by the state Supreme Court. [Texas Tribune; Houston ChronicleAssociated Press; CNBC; ABC13]

BAD GRADES | Middle and high school students in Los Angeles are getting more D’s and F’s, according to Los Angeles Unified School District data that also shows a drop in school attendance. The information shows the difficulties many families, particularly low-income ones, are having with remote learning, officials said. [Los Angeles Times]

NEW MASK MANDATE | People in Massachusetts will be required to wear masks in public even if they are able to socially distance from other people, Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday in releasing new restrictions aimed at containing the latest coronavirus surge. The state is also urging people to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., as well as ordering restaurants to close at 9.30 p.m. “If we don’t ramp up the fight . . . we will have a serious problem on our hands in the not-too-distant future,” Baker said. [Boston Globe]

GEORGIA INSURANCE | The Trump administration on Sunday approved a request by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to stop using the HealthCare.gov website in the state to sell individual health insurance plans. Instead, people who want to sign up for these plans offered through the Affordable Care Act would go to private brokers. This is the first time Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has allowed a state to not participate in the insurance exchange without setting up its own marketplace. The approval, announced on the first day people can sign up for ACA coverage for next year, will not go into effect until 2023. [Modern Healthcare; CNN; Vox]

NEW VISITOR REQUIREMENT | New York is implementing a new testing and quarantine requirement for most visitors, as well as residents who left the state and are returning. People coming from states that aren’t contiguous with New York will need to get a negative test for Covid-19 three days prior to the visit and then quarantine for three days. On the fourth day, they will be required to get another Covid test. If that is negative, they can stop quarantining. Previously, people coming from most states were required to quarantine for 14 days with no way to "test out." If visitors opt against the multiple tests, they must still quarantine. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said health experts have advised that the testing regime will be more effective in containing the coronavirus. "Given the changing facts, we’re coming up with a new program," he said. [lohud.com]

Editor's note: This story was changed after publication to include updates from Monday night.

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: Rain, Fire and Car Crashes: How Ballot Boxes are Built to Withstand the World

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