Common Cause and Anti-Defamation League Sue to Protect Voters’ Options During Pandemic
Today, Common Cause Texas and the Anti-Defamation League’s Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions (“ADL”) filed suit to block the governor of Texas from limiting drop-off sites for absentee ballots to a maximum of one per county during the state’s early voting period, regardless of the size of a county’s population or the distribution of that population. The plaintiffs argue that this order – which Governor Greg Abbott issued by proclamation on October 1 – exceeds his authority and would make it unreasonably difficult for eligible Texans to use ballot by mail.
“The state of Texas should be working to ensure safe and accessible voting for all Texans,” said Cheryl Drazin, Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League’s Central Division. “The governor’s order does the opposite. Limiting the number of drop-off sites available to absentee voters reduces the options Texans have to participate in the 2020 election without risking their health.”
In their lawsuit, ADL and Common Cause Texas argue that the limit on drop-off sites exceeds his authority and places an unconstitutional burden on Texans who are eligible to cast absentee ballots, particularly in geographically large counties. With one drop-off location per county, many voters would have to travel significant distances and spend substantial amounts of time to cast their ballots. The state’s early voting period begins on October 13.
“Many of the Texans who qualify to vote absentee have disabilities and are elderly, and they rely on public transportation,” said Anthony Gutierrez, Executive Director of Common Cause Texas. “With only one drop-off site per county, these voters would face challenges in travel that might make it impossible for them to vote. The drop-off site limit will also make the one site in each country prone to lines and crowds, endangering voters’ health.”
The governor’s order comes at a time of delays in mail delivery through the US Postal Service, making meeting the deadline for absentee ballots to count uncertain.
“Governor Abbott’s order takes healthy, reasonable, safe options away from some of this state’s most vulnerable voters,” said Myrna Pérez, director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law. “It should not stand.”
In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the Texas Election Code designates the county clerk, not the governor, as the official with the authority to manage and conduct the early voting process.
“The governor doesn’t have the legal authority to limit drop-off sites for absentee ballots. It’s up to each county’s clerk to decide how many drop-off sites the county needs and where they should be placed,” said Lindsey Cohan, counsel at Dechert LLP.
In Texas, voters are eligible to vote absentee if they are 65 years or older, have an illness or disability, will be out of the country during early voting or election day, and are in jail but would otherwise qualify for absentee voting.
ADL and Common Cause Texas are represented in this case by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and Dechert LLP. The lawsuit was filed in the district court of Travis County.
To view the complaint, click here.