Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today issued updated ballot security protocols for in-person delivery of marked mail ballots for the November election, amending an earlier mail-voting order issued under his coronavirus disaster declaration.
By Abbott’s proclamation, beginning on October 2, mail ballots delivered in person by voters to a county’s early voting clerk must be turned in to a single location designated by the county.
County election officials must also allow poll watchers to “observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk’s office location related to the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot.”
Abbott’s latest election-related order amends a July proclamation that extended the in-person early voting period by six days and allowed voters to hand-deliver mail ballots to election officials prior to Election Day.
Extending the time for in-person mail ballot deliveries from one day to several weeks made the process much harder for citizens to monitor, especially in counties where elections are administered by county clerks who have multiple satellite offices.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins—a Texas Democrat Party official appointed earlier this year to run elections in the state’s most populous county—had allowed voters to drop off mail ballots at any one of the 11 county clerk’s office locations, first during the July 14 primary runoff (on Election Day only) and again for the November general election.
Citizen poll watchers appointed by Republicans to observe the county’s mail ballot drop-offs complained this week they were being denied access to the ballot delivery locations.
“Tuesday, they wouldn’t allow our poll watchers at any of the 11 locations for in-person mail ballot drop-off,” said Alan Vera, head of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee. “Starting tomorrow, they can only have one location, and poll watchers are authorized.”
Hollins had also wanted to send mail-ballot applications to all 2.37 million registered voters in Harris County, but the plan was put on hold by the Texas Supreme Court after local citizens sued to stop what they said was an illegal action that threatened the integrity of the election.
“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,” Abbott said in a press statement. “These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”