AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Thursday designed to “maintain the integrity of our elections.”
His proclamation states beginning Friday, mail ballots delivered in person by eligible vote-by-mail voters must be dropped off to “a single early voting clerk’s office location as publicly designated by the county’s early voting clerk.”
That means people can only drop off ballots at one location in the county they live in. All other drop-off or satellite locations will be closed.
The Travis County Clerk’s Office announced it was closing two drop-off locations due to the proclamation Thursday night.
“For now, the 700 Lavaca garages and the 1010 Lavaca parking lot are closed,” the office said in a statement.
For Friday, the drop-off location at 5501 Airport Boulevard will be the only location open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to voters looking to personally deliver their ballots, the office said.
Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said the timing of the order is difficult.
“We have all had since July 27, when the original order came out for this project. He could have said that he had a problem with it at any time up until just today. So to to announce in the middle of the first day, is deliberately disruptive,” DeBeauvoir said.
She added this is not the first complication election administrators across the state have faced this year.
“We’ve been stopped multiple times. One of them the first one was the Libertarian Party candidates. The second one was the Green Party candidates when many counties in Texas had already sent out there by mail ballots printed them,” DeBeauvoir explained, “We’ve had other questions about the extra days for early voting there has been an issue every single day.”
She said she hopes voters are not discouraged to cast their ballots.
“Something’s going to happen every day from now on, don’t listen to the noise. Just turn off the noise and you as a voter, go do the one thing that only you can do and that is get out and vote,” DeBeauvoir said.
Hays and Williamson counties each have one spot designated for ballot drop-off.
It also requires early voting clerks to allow poll watchers to keep an eye on the location and “observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk’s office location related to the in-person delivery of a marked mail ballot.”
Military veteran, Pam Campos-Palma, takes issues with the new proclamation. The push for Latinos to vote is personal for her. Barriers like access to information and transportation make it difficult for some communities to cast their ballot. Campos-Palma feels the process is now more complicated after Abbott’s proclamation.
“In a year that is already filled with so much crisis and uncertainty it is active voter suppression,” said Campos-Palma.
Texas Republican Chairman Allen West disagrees. He says Abbott’s action is a direct result of the “illegal actions” of Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, accusing him of sending out unsolicited mail-in ballots to millions across his county and turning away poll watchers from drop-off locations.
“I think that proclamation is very important, but we’ve got to have teeth to it, because the people in Texas want to make sure they have a fair election process, and there are many concerns about that coming up,” West said.
Last month, West filed a lawsuit against Abbott to stop his extension of early voting, saying Abbott should have consulted with the legislature before making the decision. West said this proclamation is “wildly different,” because it’s not an executive decision that went against established election law.
“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,” Gov. Abbott said. “These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting.”
A statement released Thursday by the Texas Democratic Party called the governor’s proclamation a “blatant voter suppression tactic,” which echoed much of the reaction from other liberal groups and their supporters in the state.
“Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute,” party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said. “Courts all over the country, including the Fifth Circuit yesterday, have held that it is too late to change election rules, but our failed Republican leadership will try anyway. Make no mistake, Democracy itself is on the ballot. Every Texan must get out and vote these cowards out!”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler also sounded off on Twitter Thursday night.
“The GOP is desperate. They’re losing Texas, and they know it. Their only play left is to suppress people’s right to vote,” Adler wrote.
He strongly urged Texans to get out and vote, “no matter how hard they make it to vote.”
In order to vote in the Nov. 3 election, Texans should register to vote by Oct. 5.