Texas federal judge thwarts Republican push to toss 127,000 votes

Republicans are leading a legal blitz against US mail-in ballots and new approaches to voting due to COVID-19 concerns.

Volunteer election poll worker Cecilia Chaboudy-Dow joins demonstrators as they stand across the street from the federal courthouse in Houston before a hearing in federal court involving drive-through ballots cast in Harris County, Texas, the United States [David J Phillip/AP Photo]

A federal judge in Texas on Monday denied an attempt by Republicans to throw out about 127,000 votes already cast in the United States presidential election at drive-through voting sites in Houston, a Democratic-leaning area.

The plaintiffs had accused Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, a Democrat, of acting illegally when he allowed drive-through voting as an alternative during the coronavirus pandemic.

US District Judge Andrew Hanen, appointed by former President George W Bush, said the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case.

The lawsuit was brought last Wednesday by plaintiffs including Texas State Representative Steve Toth, conservative activist Steve Hotze, and judicial candidate Sharon Hemphill.


Hanen instructed Harris County to keep the records of drive-through polling sites separate in case of an appeal to a higher court.

“I find that when you balance the harms you’ve got to weigh in favour of counting the votes,”  Hanen said.

Texas, the second-largest US state, is traditionally a Republican stronghold, but polls show a tight race this year between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden with more than nine million ballots already cast, eclipsing the state’s total turnout from the 2016 presidential election.

Harris County, home to the city of Houston and about 4.7 million people, is the third-most populous county in the US. It currently has 10 drive-through polling sites, which are available to all voters.

Jill Biden waves to supporters after she was introduced by Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, while campaigning for her husband, former Vice President Joe Biden, in Dallas [LM Otero/AP Photo]

Earlier on Monday, a judge in Nevada ruled that ballot-counting measures were legal in the state’s largest county, home to Las Vegas.

The lawsuit, brought by the Trump campaign, the Nevada Republican Party and the county registrar, claimed the counting process in Clark County faced several issues, including observers being unable to see the count and ballots being handled in a way observers deemed improper.

Trump has repeatedly said that mail-in ballots and extensions for their counting and collection make “cheating” possible.

Experts say mail-in ballots – and voting fraud generally – rarely occur.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies