The number of locations where Texas voters can drop off their mail-in ballots has been vastly reduced to ensure poll security, Gov. Greg Abbott says.
Beginning on Oct. 2, mail ballots delivered in person by eligible voters can be delivered to locations designated by each county's early voting clerk. There will be no more than one drop-off location per county. Poll watchers may observe in-person ballot deliveries at each location.
"These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting," Abbott, a Republican, said.
Realistically, the order will have little effect in North Texas because Dallas and Tarrant counties only have one drop-off location anyway.
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And voters can still mail their mail-in ballots -- although many want to drop them off in person amid concerns about postal service delivery times.
Harris County, which includes Houston, had 12 drop-off locations for the county's more than 2 million registered voters as of September. Travis County, which includes the state capital of Austin, had four. Each county covers an area of more than 1,000 square miles (2,600 square kilometers), and other counties are individually as large as 6,000 square miles (15,500 square kilometers). Texas has 254 counties.
Polls show unusually tight races this year in America's biggest red state, intensifying battles over voting access. Texas is one of just five states not allowing widespread mail-in voting this year. Abbott has resisted calls to expand eligibility and courts have sided with GOP leaders who say fear of catching COVID-19 doesn't qualify voters for mail-in ballots.
Soon after the announcement was made, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) responded, saying, "once again we are suing the Governor and the Republican establishment to protect the rights of every Texan to vote."
“Governor Abbott's Executive Order today to limit drop box locations reeks of the continued voter suppression and rigging of voter turnout by Republicans against all Texans in a pandemic," Domingo Garcia - LULAC National President said in a statement. "It is disgraceful, unlawful and the worst type of third world politics or something that you would expect in a country like Russia or China, not Texas or the United States."
To qualify for a mail-in ballot in Texas, voters must be: away from their county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period; sick or disabled; confined in jail but otherwise eligible to vote; or 65 years old or more.
Where to Drop Your Absentee Ballot
In Tarrant County, absentee ballots can be dropped off in person at the Tarrant County Elections Administration office at 2700 Premier Street, during regular business hours. The ballot may also be hand-delivered on Election Day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. You may only hand-deliver your own envelope and not for another individual and you must bring ID. Read more here.
In Dallas County, absentee ballots can be dropped off at the Early Voting Clerk's Office at 1520 Round Table Drive. A full schedule, with extended hours, is available on DallasCountyVotes.org. You may only hand-deliver your own envelope and not for another individual and you must bring ID.
In Denton County, absentee ballots can be dropped off at the Early Voting Clerk's Office at 701 Kimberly Drive. Ballots may be hand-delivered during regular business hours. You may only hand-deliver your own envelope and not for another individual and you must bring ID. Read more here.
In Collin County, absentee ballots can be dropped off at the Elections Department at 2010 Redbud Boulevard during regular business hours. More information can be found here. You may only hand-deliver your own envelope and not for another individual and you must bring ID.
Register to Vote by Monday
The last day to register to vote in the state of Texas is Monday, Oct. 5. You can check your voter status at VoteTexas.gov. If you need to register, you can print out an application online and then mail it to your county election office. It must be postmarked by Monday, Oct. 5, or you can hand-deliver it to your county clerk's office. Texans can now register to vote online, but only when they renew or update their driver's license.