An employee places the ballot in the locking box at the manual ballot delivery center in Austin, Texas, USA, on Friday, October 2, 2020.
Sergio Flores Bloomberg | Getty Images
A federal appeals court has upheld Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to remove ballot box dropouts across Texas.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the fifth chain sided with Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughes late Monday, saying the governor̵
“Properly understood … the October 1 proclamation is part of expansion of absentee voting in Texas, not restriction from him “, the court ruled.
Texas Democrats and voting groups have criticized the order, saying it violates voter rights.
“We can overcome,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in response to the court’s ruling. “While Republicans will do whatever it takes to retain power, even if it means suppressing the votes of the rising Texas electorate, Texas Democrats are fighting for every electorate to have their vote.”
Earlier this month, Texas voting organizations and private individuals sued Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas for the order. In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin, the plaintiffs said that “imposing such a new burden on voters who rely on a different set of election rules to draw up their voting plan is unreasonable, unfair and unconstitutional.”
On Friday, a federal judge blocked Abbott’s October 1 proclamation, which would limit the personal delivery of early voting ballots to one seat for each county.
Hughes immediately appealed the decision and the Fifth Circuit granted a temporary stay on Saturday.
The governor’s proclamation, which also allows poll observers to observe the distribution of ballots, amended a July 27 proclamation that extended early voting and allowed voters to deliver ballots in person by mail.
“Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our election,” the governor said in a statement announcing the proclamation. “These enhanced security protocols will provide greater transparency and help stop attempts to vote illegally.”
Harris County, home of Houston, the country’s fourth most populous city, has 12 dropouts to meet the high demand for postal voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. Travis County, home of the state capital Austin, has four sites. All boxes except one area will be removed.
Tuesday marks the first day of early voting in Texas. Harris County officials told NBC News that more than 4,500 people voted in the first 30 minutes after the polls opened.