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Press Release

Lawsuit Filed to Stop Texas Governor’s Limit on Drop-Off Sites for Absentee Ballots

Anti-Defamation League and Common Cause sue to protect voters’ options during pandemic.

October 5, 2020
Contact: Julian Brookes, Media Contact, brookesj@brennan.law.nyu.edu, 646-292-8376

Today, the Anti-Defam­a­tion League’s Austin, South­w­est, and Texoma Regions, Common Cause Texas, and an indi­vidual Texas voter 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, the plaintiffs argue that the limit on drop-off sites exceeds Governor Abbot­t’s 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.

The Anti-Defam­a­tion League’s Austin, South­w­est, and Texoma Regions, Common Cause Texas, and Robert Knetsch are repres­en­ted in this case by the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU Law and Dech­ert LLP. The lawsuit, Anti-Defam­a­tion League Austin, South­w­est, and Texoma Regions v. Abbott, was filed in the district court of Travis County.

Complaint is here

Case back­ground is here.

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ADL is a lead­ing anti-hate organ­iz­a­tion. Foun­ded in 1913 in response to an escal­at­ing climate of anti­semit­ism and bigotry, its time­less mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treat­ment for all. Today, ADL contin­ues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is the first call when acts of anti­semit­ism occur. A global leader in expos­ing extrem­ism, deliv­er­ing anti-bias educa­tion and fight­ing hate online, ADL’s ulti­mate goal is a world in which no group or indi­vidual suffers from bias, discrim­in­a­tion or hate. As a 501c3 nonprofit organ­iz­a­tion, ADL takes no posi­tion on behalf of or in oppos­i­tion to any candid­ate for office. More at www.adl.org.

Common Cause is a nonpar­tisan, grass­roots organ­iz­a­tion dedic­ated to uphold­ing the core values of Amer­ican demo­cracy. We work to create open, honest, and account­able govern­ment that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, oppor­tun­ity, and repres­ent­a­tion for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the polit­ical process. More at www.common­cause.org

Dech­ert is a lead­ing global law firm with 26 offices around the world. We advise on matters and trans­ac­tions of the greatest complex­ity, bring­ing energy, creativ­ity and effi­cient manage­ment of legal issues to deliver commer­cial and prac­tical advice for clients. Please visit www.dech­ert.com for more inform­a­tion.