Texas Supreme Court rules Harris County drive-thru, curbside voting can continue

An election official directs a car to a spot at the Humble Civic Center's drive-thru voting location. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
An election official directs a car to a spot at the Humble Civic Center's drive-thru voting location. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

An election official directs a car to a spot at the Humble Civic Center's drive-thru voting location. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)

On Oct. 22, the Texas Supreme Court denied a petition from the Harris County Republican Party and others challenging Harris County's curbside and drive-thru voting sites.

The ruling means more than 98,000 ballots cast at drive-thru polling sites across Harris County will be counted in the Nov. 3 election, according to an Oct. 22 release from the Harris County Clerk's office. It also allows the 10 drive-thru polling sites to remain open through early voting and on Election Day.

The day before early voting began, the Texas Republican Party filed a lawsuit against Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins' office on Oct. 12 to restrict drive-thru and curbside voting to “only those Harris County registered voters who have submitted sworn applications,” Community Impact Newspaper reported. The lawsuit was quickly dismissed on Oct. 13.

However, soon after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office published a press release Oct. 16 stating the Texas Election Code "makes no provision for 'drive-thru' voting centers at which any voter may cast a ballot from his or her vehicle regardless of physical condition."

At a press conference Oct. 21, Hollins pushed back against Paxton's release by saying that the election code states a polling place can be located in any stationary structure or movable structure as directed by the authority establishing the branch office.


Additionally, according to the Texas Secretary of State's Office website, curbside voting is allowed upon request to an election officer for those who are unable to enter a polling place without personal assistance or likelihood of injury, or those with signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

In response to Paxton's opposition, Hollins sent a letter to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs on Oct. 20 requesting the office respond to mixed messages and assure that drive-thru ballots would be counted.

At the virtual press conference Oct. 21, Hollins said the secretary of state’s office had yet to respond to his letter. Community Impact Newspaper emailed the secretary of state's office Oct. 21 for comment, but a response was not given by press time.

“My request to the secretary of state has been met with silence, and that silence right now is speaking volumes,” he said at the press conference.

Hollins said drive-thru voting is a "safe and convenient manner for voting," and that roughly 10% of all votes cast in Harris County so far have been done at drive-thru sites.

Between Oct. 13-22, 98,806 ballots were cast at the 10 drive-thru polling locations across Harris County, per Oct. 22 unofficial election data. Many of the drive-thru sites, which also serve as regular polling sites, have seen more drive-thru voters than regular voters.


The Oct. 22 ruling came following support from local Democratic leaders and organizations, such as Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Texas Democratic Party. Hidalgo sent a letter to Abbott on Oct. 22 urging him to assure that ballots cast through drive-thru voting will be valid, according to a news release.

In an Oct. 22 tweet, Hidalgo praised the Supreme Court ruling.

"This is a victory for for democracy, for the thousands of courageous voters who have participated, even in the face of suppression attempts, and [it's] a fair interpretation of the law," she wrote.
By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.



MOST RECENT

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Dec. 2 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allotted 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the state of Texas. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
First allotment of COVID-19 vaccinations expected to arrive in Texas in mid-December

About 1.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been allotted to the state of Texas and will arrive the week of Dec. 14.

The East Montgomery County Industrial Park off Gene Campbell Road will welcome the Lowe's Distribution Center in July. (Courtesy East Montgomery County Improvement District)
Lowe's to bring 200 jobs to Montgomery County and more Houston-area news

Read the latest Houston-area business and community news.

Humble ISD has proposed a 2021-22 calendar similar to the calendars of the last two years. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Humble ISD seeks parent, staff feedback on proposed 2021-22 calendar

Humble ISD has proposed a 2021-22 calendar similar to the calendars of the last two years.

The letter came a week after Longoria was virtually sworn into the office by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Nov. 18. (Screenshot via Zoom)
Harris County scrambles to make creation of Elections Administrator Office lawful after Attorney General's letter identifies deficiencies

Harris County is working to make right the appointment of Isabel Longoria as the county's first-ever elections administrator after County Attorney Vince Ryan received a letter Nov. 25 from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stating that the county did not follow the proper appointment process.

money
Houston residents can apply for $1,200 in direct cash assistance

Applications will be evaluated based on need rather than a first-come, first-served basis.

Gwen Sims first joined Harris County Public Health in 1997. (Courtesy Harris County Public Health)
Deputy Director Gwen Sims appointed interim executive director of Harris County Public Health

Harris County Commissioners Court unanimously appointed Gwen Sims to serve as the interim executive director of Harris County Public Health in anticipation of Executive Director Umair Shah's departure Dec. 18.

CCEMS provides emergency medical services for approximately 177 square miles of North Harris County. (Courtesy Cypress Creek EMS)
Judge rules Harris County Emergency Services District No. 11 can no longer withhold payments from Cypress Creek EMS

The ESD No. 11 board voted to terminate its contract with CCEMS on Sept. 3 after a long history of disagreements over the two entities’ 16-year relationship.

To support this initiative, community members are encouraged to visit NAM's Blessing Tree, located at 15555 Kuykendahl Road, Houston, where they can choose a child's name and shop specifically for that child. (Courtesy Northwest Assistance Ministries)
Northwest Assistance Ministries in need of donations to support biggest Season of Blessings campaign in nonprofit's history

Northwest Assistance Ministries is in need of toys, food and monetary donations to provide meals to more than 1,700 families and toys to more than 5,300 children this holiday season. By comparison, the nonprofit provided meals for 994 families and toys for 1,773 children in 2019.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has launched a campaign to address declining college enrollment numbers across the state since the pandemic started. (Courtesy Pexels)
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launches campaign to boost college enrollment

The decline in college enrollment across the state of Texas has prompted several agencies to partner up and create online resources for students and counselors.

Downtown Houston Streetscape at dusk
Mayor Sylvester Turner considering curfew as 'last resort' to curb bar and club crowding

Houston fire chief Sam Peña, whose department is responsible for monitoring occupancy violations, said fire marshals have responded to over 20,000 complaints since March 18.

Community Impact Newspaper uses data from the Montgomery County Public Health District for weekly case counts. (Community Impact Newspaper)
Active COVID-19 cases in Montgomery County rise 34% over Thanksgiving week from Nov. 23-30

Active cases increased from 2,513 to 3,365; recoveries grew from 10,655 to 11,019; and the death toll has remained the same at 169.