Harris County clerk 'confident' in court victory in mail ballot case

Christopher Hollins spoke at a Sept. 10 press conference about how the county is preparing for the November 2020 general election. (Screenshot courtesy Zoom)
Christopher Hollins spoke at a Sept. 10 press conference about how the county is preparing for the November 2020 general election. (Screenshot courtesy Zoom)

Christopher Hollins spoke at a Sept. 10 press conference about how the county is preparing for the November 2020 general election. (Screenshot courtesy Zoom)

As a courtroom battle plays out between Harris County and the state of Texas over whether the county can send mail ballot applications to all registered voters in advance of the November General Election, Harris County Clerk Christopher Hollins expressed confidence Sept. 10 that the county was close to getting a favorable ruling.

The county was sued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Aug. 31, and the Texas Supreme Court stepped in to block the county's plans Sept. 2.

Speaking at a Sept. 10 press conference, Hollins said the Supreme Court block only lasts while the case is playing out in court. He said he hopes to get a ruling Sept. 11.

Hollins, who said his office has been working with the Harris County attorney to defend the case, called the lawsuit "baseless" and "frivolous."

"We’re confident we’re going to win this thing and move forward with plans to educate Texas voters in a way that is required at this time," he said.

Prior to the July primary runoff election, the county sent out nearly 400,000 mail ballot applications to registered voters age 65 and older, and Hollins said about 50,000 of those were returned. About 80,000 people ended up voting by mail during July elections when all was said and done, Hollins said.

"The success of our outreach efforts in June and July is a clear indication the voters are concerned about their health at the polls," Hollins said. "It's safer and more convenient for you. This also makes it safer and more convenient for in-person voters. [It is] one less person to wait behind in line and one less person they might be exposed to at a voting center."

In its lawsuit, state officials argued the county does not have the authority to carry out its mail ballot plan under state law.

Texas is one of just seven states that does not allow all registered voters to vote by mail, Hollins said, adding that he was disappointed the county's efforts to send mail ballots to all registered voters was being challenged by the state.

The effort to boost mail ballot infrastructure is part of a larger $27 million plan to both prepare for and carry out the November election. Hollins provided updates on other efforts to prepare for the election, which could see record turnout even with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing.

Harris County voters will have 10 locations at which they can use drive-thru voting, a process that involves voters waiting in their vehicles until they are appointed to a voting booth. He confirmed the following locations will feature drive-thru voting throughout the voting period.

  • Toyota Center, 1510 Polk St., Houston

  • NRG Arena, 1 NRG Parkway, Houston

  • Fallbrook Church, 12512 Walters Road, Houston

  • Windsor Village Community Center, 14441 Croquet Lane, Houston

  • Houston Food Bank, 535 Portwall St., Houston

  • Houston Community College, West Loop, 5601 W. Loop S., Houston

  • Houston Community College, Alief Bissonnet, 2811 Hayes Road, Houston

  • Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway, Humble

  • Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, 2025 W. 11 St., Houston

The drive-thru voting locations are being rolled out following a pilot program during the July runoff elections at the Houston Community College West Loop campus.

A total of 121 early voting locations—triple the number open during the 2016 elections—will be open starting Oct. 13, the first day of early voting.

Hollins said he is aiming to have a record 808 locations open on Election Day.

"We have a critical need for large facilities to serve as voting centers, and we left no stone unturned in our search," he said.

A list of polling locations, which is subject to updates, can be found here.
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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