October 13, 2020
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined 18 other attorneys general in supporting a challenge to a Texas Executive Proclamation that limits the number of absentee ballot drop-off sites in the state to one per county and closes down sites that were already open.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of Texas voters and voting-rights organizations, claims that reducing drop-off sites forces voters to travel potentially long distances to cast their ballots, threatening their ability to vote and their health during the pandemic. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in Texas League of United Latin American Citizens v. Hughs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the multistate coalition opposes the proclamation, arguing that states have a responsibility to tailor their election rules to protect voter participation and voter safety during the pandemic. The brief also argues that voter fraud is extremely rare and that making voting more accessible through drop-off sites does not lead to widespread fraud.
“There is absolutely no logical reason for the Governor of the second largest state in this country to limit absentee ballot drop-off sites to one per county,” said Nessel. “In the midst of a global pandemic and election year, voting must be safe and accessible for everyone. This move so close to the election is concerning, and will disproportionately affect communities of color in Texas. This appears to be an unconscionable act of voter suppression.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, states across the country have modified their election procedures to protect both voter participation and the health of voters and election workers. Expanding access to absentee ballot drop-off sites is a popular solution adopted by many states, especially given recent crises engulfing the United States Postal Service (USPS). Several states and the District of Columbia recently sued to stop USPS cuts that threatened mail service in advance of Election Day. The court there issued a preliminary injunction preventing the operational changes that would undermine mail delivery. Despite this win, some voters remain concerned about USPS’s ability to deliver election mail in a timely manner, which makes ballot drop-off sites an important option for voters.
On Oct. 1, 2020, after absentee voting had already begun, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Proclamation limiting absentee ballot drop-off boxes in the state to one per county, claiming such a move is necessary to prevent voter fraud. A group of Texas voters and voting-rights organizations filed a lawsuit to block this reduction of drop-off sites, arguing that the order threatens the health of voters and could suppress the vote. A federal district court blocked Gov. Abbott’s proclamation, and the Texas Secretary of State appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and requested that the court stay the district court’s action.
In the amicus brief-- filed Monday, the coalition supports the plaintiffs’ challenge to reducing the number of absentee ballot drop-off sites because:
Attorney General Nessel joins the attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington in filing this brief.