AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered counties to have only one mail-in ballot drop-off site, shuttering dozens of locations in some of the state’s largest cities and key Democratic strongholds just as voters started to return ballots.
Abbott called his order a move to enhance poll security, while Democrats blasted it as a naked effort to suppress voters.
Beginning on October 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 said.
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. Harris County covers an area of more than 1,700 square miles (4,400 square kilometers), while Travis County stretches over more than 1,000 sq. miles (2,600 square kilometers). Other counties are individually as large as 6,000 square miles (15,500 square kilometers) — larger than the entire state of Connecticut. Texas has 254 counties.
The U.S. Postal Service informed Texas in July that given the state's current mail ballot request deadline, some ballots may not be delivered to voters by Election Day, and that even if all ballots reached voters on time, there was a “significant risk” that completed ballots postmarked on or near Election Day would not be received by the state's Nov. 4 deadline.
The Texas Secretary of State's office has not responded to Associated Press requests for comment on its plans...