A federal judge set a hearing for Monday morning to hear a challenge to drive-thru voting in Harris County, Texas, the largest county in the state.
Judge Andrew Hanen, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, set a hearing for 10:30 a.m., local time on Monday.
A group of Republicans filed a petition Tuesday seeking the halt of drive-thru voting in Harris County, marking another attempt to dismantle drive-thru voting after the Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that it could proceed.
The same group of plaintiffs also filed a new petition with the Texas Supreme Court that is awaiting a decision.
Both petitions are seeking to block nearly 127,000 drive-thru ballots that were cast during early voting from being tabulated until the court issues an order. The votes are set to be counted starting the morning of Election Day.
Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins has staunchly defended drive-thru voting as a legal and safe option for voting during the pandemic. County lawyers filed a nearly 200-page response with the Texas Supreme Court this week. Supporters of drive-thru voting also point to how the Texas Supreme Court, which is comprised solely of Republicans, already ruled in favor of it last week.
Harris County is home to Houston and the largest county in the state with 2.4 million registered voters. It’s become a Democratic stronghold in recent elections.
The plaintiffs, which include Republican activist Steve Hotze and three Republican candidates for office, argue that drive-thru voting violates federal law.
Ten of Harris County’s 120 early voting sites are drive-thru locations. As of Friday, nearly 127,000 votes had been cast via drive-thru, marking nearly 9% of the total votes cast in the country’s third most populous county. While curbside voting in Harris County is limited to voters with a disability and located at all polling sites, the drive-thru voting locations are open to all voters.
The petition argues nine of the 10 locations are in heavily Democratic areas.
The latest challenge argues that drive-thru voting violates the US Constitution, which says state legislatures decide how elections are run. The plaintiffs also argue it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, in that the county is adopting a manner of voting that has not been adopted by other Texas counties.
Republican State Rep. Steve Toth, who’s listed on the petition as a plaintiff, argued it’s the job of the state legislature – not local counties – to implement changes such as drive-thru voting. He also criticized the state Supreme Court’s decision last week. He represents South Montgomery County, just north of Harris County.