October 1, 2020
County Judge Lina Hidalgo today issued the following statement in response to Governor Abbott’s executive order closing down 11 mail-in ballot drop-off locations in Harris County 33 days before the general election. Governor Abbott’s proclamation reverses previous state guidance allowing counties to provide voters with multiple official ballot drop off locations and leaves Harris County with only one ballot drop-off site.
“The strength of our democracy and our county is only as strong as our ability to support free, fair, and open elections. Geographically, Harris County is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Our population rivals that of the entire state of Colorado. To propose only a single, secure drop-off location for a county of our size during a pandemic is ludicrous. Simply put, mail ballot voters should not be forced to drive 30 miles to drop off their ballot, or be limited to relying primarily on a mail system that’s facing cutbacks. Governor Abbott’s move is transparently about suppression, not security. It is also part of a broader effort by the Trump Administration to confuse voters, discourage voter participation and degrade public confidence in our elections.
We are working with our attorneys to assess any legal options we have, but in the meantime we want to be very clear: Regardless of who you want to vote for, your vote matters. Do not let the forces of voter intimidation prevent or discourage you from making your voice heard. Voters in Harris County who have already taken advantage of drop off locations in our County to date should know that their ballots will still be counted. Drop-off locations for example, require voters to show ID when dropping off their votes.”
Over the past year and a half, Harris County has undertaken a series of improvements designed to make voting easier, safer, accessible, and secure. The county has tripled the number of early voting locations, extended voting hours, implemented county-wide voting centers, and undertaken elections security audits. To provide enhanced safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the county is taking additional precautions, like providing voters with PPE and standing up drive-thru voting options. This week, the county also launched a ballot tracking system to provide mail-in ballot voters with updates on the status of their ballot.