Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation Thursday directing counties in the state to designate just one location for mail-in ballot drop-offs.
According to the Austin American-Stateman, the order modified a previous order issued by Abbott, which added six days of early voting and waived a state law limiting mail-in ballot drop-off to Election Day only.
The governor argued the measure would "strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state" as concerns over voter fraud have increased amid the coronavirus pandemic. The measure also allows for parties to install poll watchers at voting sites to observe ballot deliveries.
"These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting," Abbott argued.
Democrats are incensed
Democrats couldn't disagree more and are blasting the measure as a voter suppression tactic, according to the Texas Tribune.
"Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Gov. Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last minute," said Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.
In Harris County, the most populous county in the state and one of its few Democratic strongholds, officials had designated a dozen drop-off locations and had already begun collecting ballots.
Lina Hidalgo, a Democratic judge in the county, said, "This isn't security, it's suppression."
"This is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the election," Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said in a news conference.
Texas Democratic House candidate Joaquin Castro wrote in a tweet: "The only thing [Abbott] has been quick to close in this pandemic is your polling location."
Former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has wasted no time formulating action against the measure.
"We either accept Greg Abbott's latest attempt to suppress voting in Texas or we take action to overcome it," he wrote on Twitter Friday. "Tomorrow I will be calling eligible unregistered Texans to get them on the rolls ahead of the most important election of our lives."
O'Rourke also blasted the measure in a video message since posted to Twitter.
BETO BASHES GREG ABBOTT! “This is voter suppression ON STEROIDS!” (1 hour ago) https://t.co/8jeKXJUQQ5— BetoMedia (@BetoMedia) 1601589831.0
Famed novelist Stephen King even jumped in on the action.
Dear Texas: Your governor, Greg Abbott, is trying to suppress your vote.— Stephen King (@Stephen King) 1601586540.0
A lawsuit has been filed
DallasNews.com reported that voting rights groups and two voters have already filed a lawsuit against the governor over his order.
In the lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Austin, plaintiffs argue that Abbott's measure is "unreasonable, unfair, and unconstitutional."
"To limit ballot drop off locations this close to the election, and as voting has already begun, is voter suppression, plain and simple," said Grace Chimene, president of the League of Women Voters of Texas, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "Instead of protecting our most vulnerable voters — those with disabilities and those 65 and over — and ensuring their safe access to the ballot, our state has erected higher barriers for voters. It's shameful."
Abbott spokesman John Wittman has responded saying the governor's order does not limit access to voting, but expands it.
"Before the Governor's executive order, Texans who wanted to vote by mail could either mail their ballot or submit it in person on Election Day only," he said. "Because of COVID-19, the governor's executive order increased the time period during which voters can submit their mail-in ballot in person to include anytime leading up to Election Day."
Early voting begins in Texas on Oct. 13.