Judge rejects Republican suit against 'drive-thru' voting

·2 min read
Candidates' signs are posted outside a voting location in Houston, Texas
Candidates' signs are posted outside a voting location in Houston, Texas

A federal judge in Texas rejected Monday a Republican effort to disqualify "drive-thru" voting in Houston, allowing some 127,000 votes in the Democratic-leaning area to stand.

In one of scores of innovations made by election authorities across the country to deal with the Covid-19 challenge, Harris County set up tents in 10 locations that voters could drive into and vote privately from their cars under social-distancing conventions.

The Republican Party of Texas sued as the voting began in early October, saying the drive-thru tents did not adhere to existing regulations for voting sites and methods.

Texas Democrats accused Republicans of trying to stifle votes in the Democratic Party stronghold, one of the country's largest voting districts.

Democrats hope that Joe Biden, the party's nominee for president, might win the state long locked up by Republican White House candidates. 

Local Texas courts ruled against the original complaint, and on Sunday, the Texas state Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Then, a separate group of Republican activists and candidates lodged a last-ditch complaint in the federal court system.

On Monday, Republican-appointed federal judge Andrew Hanen expressed some reservations about the innovation.

But he finally ruled that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to challenge it, saying they could not claim harm.

That allowed the 127,000 votes cast from car windows to stand.

Local officials and Democrats expressed relief.

"Drive-thru voting is safe, secure, legal, and a common sense way for voters to cast their ballots during a pandemic," said Lina Hidalgo, head of the Harris County governing body.

"It is beyond comprehension that anyone would seek to invalidate 127,000 votes legally cast by voters."

But Hanen warned that voters should not try the drive-thru service on Tuesday, the official national election day, saying the case could be pushed to a federal appeals court and leave their votes in jeopardy.

"If I were to vote tomorrow, I would not vote in a drive-thru location out of concern about if it's legal or not," said Hanen.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, a judge rejected a Republican lawsuit that aimed to halt counting of mail-in ballots.

The Republicans claimed they did not have enough access to monitor the counting process.

Polls show Biden is favored in Nevada.

pmh/to