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Gov. Greg Abbott

Photo by Jay Godwin via LBJLibraryNow

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Thursday that each county in the state can only have one designated spot for voters to return absentee ballots — a move that will undoubtedly make it harder to vote, as it will require many people in the state to travel further to drop off completed ballots.

Abbott claimed the move was aimed at "enhancing ballot security protocols," and went on to say that he is authorizing "poll watchers to observe any activity conducted at the early voting clerk's office location."

"The State of Texas has a duty to voters to maintain the integrity of our elections," Abbott said in a news release. "As we work to preserve Texans' ability to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take extra care to strengthen ballot security protocols throughout the state. These enhanced security protocols will ensure greater transparency and will help stop attempts at illegal voting."

People in Texas who want to vote may have to travel hundreds of miles to do so.

For example, Harris County — the largest county in Texas that encompasses the city of Houston — is 1,703 square miles, according to data from the Census Bureau. That's larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, which is 1,545 square miles. Currently, Harris County has 12 ballot drop-off sites — 11 satellite offices of the county clerk, as well as one arena located in Houston.

Travis County, which includes the capital city of Austin, currently has four drop-off sites.

Abbott's move comes as Donald Trump has been railing against absentee ballots, falsely claiming they're rife with fraud and even vowing to get absentee ballots tossed out to help him win reelection.

Trump's campaign has filed numerous lawsuits to make it harder to vote by mail, including efforts to reduce the number of ballot drop boxes in states across the country. (Trump has lost many of these lawsuits already, as his campaign has been unable to prove absentee ballots lead to fraud or that ballot drop boxes are not secure.)

Trump also called on his supporters to watch the polls, a move that's leading officials in states across the country to worry about voter intimidation.

Abbott has been a Trump ally, and his false claim that poll watchers and decreased drop-off locations and are needed for "security" reasons seems to be taking Trump's lies and turning them into policy.

Marc Elias, a lawyer who has been helping Democrats fight against Trump and the Republican Party's efforts to make it harder to vote, condemned Abbott's move.

"This is an outrageous act of voter suppression by the Republicans who know they are losing at the ballot box," Elias tweeted. "We will explore ALL legal options to ensure voting rights for all Texans!"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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