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Who's most affected by Texas restricting ballot drop-off locations

Texas' system of ballot drop-off locations was up and running, and operating without incident. Then Texas' Republican governor had an idea.
Image: Greg Abbott
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott provides an update to the state's Covid-19 response in Austin, Texas, on Sept. 17, 2020.Eric Gay / AP file

While Texas has been a reliable Republican stronghold over the last couple of decades, 2020 is shaping up to be a competitive year in the Lone Star State. In fact, at the presidential level, statewide polling has shown Donald Trump leading Joe Biden, but not by much.

It's against this backdrop that Texas' Republican governor made an announcement yesterday afternoon.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, ordered counties to stop accepting hand-delivered absentee ballots at more than one location, issuing a proclamation that could make it harder for residents to vote early.

Note, Texas counties already had a system in place, with many ballot drop-off locations. Abbott announced yesterday, however, that officials need to stop doing what they've been doing and instead limit drop-off locations to one box per county.

To appreciate the practical impact, it's important to acknowledge the size of some of Texas' larger counties. Harris County, for example, includes Houston, has a population of 4.7 million people -- larger than many states -- and is roughly the size of Rhode Island.

Effective today, however, at the governor's direction, it will have exactly one ballot drop-off location, rather than the 12 boxes it had yesterday.

Complicating matters, a Washington Post analysis noted that the governor's change "will disproportionately affect Democratic and non-White areas."

In case this isn't obvious, it's worth emphasizing that there was no problem in need of a solution. It's not as if Abbott discovered a problem with the ballot drop-off locations and scrambled to come up with a fix. Just the opposite is true: the system was up and running, and it was operating without incident -- until the governor decided to make it vastly more difficult for his own constituents to cast ballots in a competitive election.

None of this is subtle.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the League of United Latin American Citizens has announced plans to challenge the policy in court. Watch this space.

Update: The Texas governor's move almost certainly would've been impermissible under the Voting Rights Act, had the Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court not gutted it.