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Anti-Defamation League Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions vs. Abbott

In this lawsuit, the plaintiffs challenge Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s order limiting the number of absentee ballot drop-off locations to one per county. The Brennan Center and Dechert LLP represent the Anti-Defamation League Austin Southwest, and Texoma Regions, Common Cause Texas, and an individual in the challenge to Governor Abbott’s order.

Last Updated: October 28, 2020
Published: October 5, 2020

On October 5, 2020, the Brennan Center and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit in Texas state court on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League Austin, Southwest, and Texoma Regions (“ADL”), Common Cause Texas, and an individual Texas voter, challenging Governor Greg Abbott’s October 1, 2020 Proclamation, which bars local election officials from providing more than one drop-off site for mail-in ballots during the early voting period. The plaintiffs also applied for a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction.

The plaintiffs argue that the Proclamation exceeds the Governor’s power, even in even in an emergency setting, because the Governor does not have authority to manage and conduct the early voting process, and his emergency powers are to be used to alleviate a disaster, not to exacerbate one, as the Proclamation does. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the Proclamation violates their equal protection rights under the state constitution.

Background

The Texas Election Code designates local election officials as the officials with the authority to manage and conduct the early voting process. And, as Governor Abbott has told the state Supreme Court, the Election Code allows local election officials to designate more than one early voting ballot drop-off site in each county.  Pursuant to this authority, many counties offered multiple drop-off locations in the primary runoff election and intended to do so in the upcoming general election.

Nevertheless, on October 1, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a Proclamation, which bars local election officials from providing more than one drop-off site for mail-in ballots during the early voting period, regardless of the size or population density of the county.  

On October 5, 2020, the Brennan Center and Dechert LLP filed a lawsuit in Texas state court on behalf of ADL, Common Cause Texas, and an individual Texas voter, challenging the October 1 Proclamation, and seeking a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction The plaintiffs argue that the Proclamation exceeds the Governor’s power, even in even in an emergency setting, because the Governor does not have authority to manage and conduct the early voting process, and his emergency powers are to be used to alleviate a disaster, not to exacerbate one, as the Proclamation does. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the Proclamation violates their equal protection rights under the state constitution.

On October 6, the Defendant filed a response to the application for temporary injunction and a plea to the jurisdiction.

On October 11, Plaintiffs submitted a motion for leave to file a First Amended Petition to add Secretary of State Ruth Hughs as a defendant.

On October 13, the trial court held a temporary injunction hearing.

On October 15, the district court issued an order granting a preliminary injunction against the part of the Governor's Proclamation that limited counties' ability to offer more than one absentee ballot return location prior to Election Day.

On October 15, Defendants filed a notice of appeal, which stayed the district court's temporary injunction.

On October 19, Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion, in the Court of Appeals, to reinstate the temporary injunction. On October 20, the Court of Appeals ordered Defendant-Appellants to respond to the motion by Noon on October 21. The Court also ordered expedited hearing on the merits, with the matter to be fully briefed by Noon on October 23.

On October 23, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s temporary injunction. The same day, the Defendants filed an emergency petition for review in the Texas Supreme Court. They also filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, requesting that the Supreme Court order the Court of Appeals to recall its mandate.

On October 24, the Texas Supreme Court stayed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and mandate, effectively pausing the effect of the district court’s temporary injunction. The Court also ordered the Plaintiffs to respond to the emergency petition for review by 5:00pm on October 26.

On October 27, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and dissolved the temporary injunction.

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