Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that only the drive-thru location to drop off mail-in ballots at 5501 Airport Boulevard will be open starting Oct. 2.
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called Gov. Greg Abbott’s order limiting each county in the state to one drop-off location for mail-in ballots “most unfortunate, not timely and not good news for voters” on Oct. 1. Speaking to the media at one of those drive-thru ballot drop-off locations—the parking garage at 700 Lavaca St., Austin—DeBeauvoir said she will challenge the orders to the fullest extent of her ability.
“This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the election,” DeBeauvoir said.
Voters in Texas who meet certain conditions can receive a ballot by mail. To do so, they must be over 65 years old, disabled, out of the county during the entire election period or confined in jail but eligible to vote.
DeBeauvoir told Community Impact Newspaper in September that the county is expecting 100,000 mail-in ballots this November, which represents about 12% of all registered voters. According to a press release from the clerk, the office sent out 9,000 ballots by mail on Oct. 1.
Once those voters receive the ballot in the mail, they can either send it back to the county clerk via the postal service or they can hand-deliver it to a poll worker at a drive-thru center in the county, open through Election Day on Nov. 3.
On Oct. 1, three of those drive-thru centers opened—all in Austin—at a parking garage at 700 Lavaca St., a parking lot at 1010 Lavaca St., and a drive-thru lane at the Travis County Tax Office at 5501 Airport Blvd.
However, on Oct. 2, due to the governor's order, only the location at 5501 Airport Boulevard will be open. That location will be accepting voters wishing to drop off their ballots in one of its drive-thru lanes from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. DeBeauvoir said the clerk’s office is working with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla to assess its options going forward.
In a press release announcing the new order, Abbott said the state “has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections.”
“As we work to preserve Texans’ ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”
DeBeauvoir further said that the order is “absolutely targeted” at suppressing the vote in large cities with multiple drive-thru sites to return mail-in ballots. Harris County closed 11 of its drive-thru drop-off locations and now will have only one open beginning Oct. 2: NRG Arena.
“What I need to say to voters is, 'Don’t listen to the noise. Just get out and go vote,'” DeBeauvoir said.
Voters who plan to cast their ballot in person will have that opportunity beginning Oct. 13, when the early voting period opens.
Find more on how voting will look different this fall here in Community Impact Newspaper’s October cover story on the fall 2020 elections.
For more information on who is appearing on the ballot, Q&As with local candidates and county-by-county guides, go to our local voter guide page.
Travis County will challenge governor’s order to close multiple drive-thru mail-in ballot delivery locations
A poll volunteer guides a voter to the drive-thru lane to drop off a mail-in ballot at the Travis County Tax Office at 5501 Airport Blvd., Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)