Down to the wire: GOP loses another voter suppression lawsuit in Texas
A Texas voter takes advantage of drive-in voting. | LM Otero/AP

HOUSTON—Talk about a cliffhanger. At 2:40 pm CST the day before the most contested and controversial U.S. election in decades, Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen in Houston ruled Texas must count 127,000 ballots already cast in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold dominated by the city of Houston.

Hanen’s ruling could tip the Lone Star State, the second most-populous in the U.S., either way, given the virtual tie in opinion polls between Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and incumbent GOP White House occupant Donald Trump.

Despite prior GOP’s voter suppression efforts, mail-in voting and pre-election day balloting has been so enormous in Texas that the state has already smashed its entire 2016 Election Day turnout of 8.97 million. The mail-in votes alone this year totaled 9.01 million as of the morning of Oct. 30.

The Texas lawsuit, challenging the legality of drive-up votes dropped in ballot boxes, is the third on that issue alone since mid-October. The GOP is zero-for-two in its tries to suppress those drive-up votes from Harris County, which is majority-minority, including 37% Latinx and 25% Black.

The lawsuit, by a GOP state legislator and Republican activists with no connection—they said—to the Trump campaign, is one of several hundred lawsuits concerning the election, and particularly who is allowed to vote and when the votes will be counted, filed around the U.S.

The overwhelming majority have been voter suppression efforts by the GOP, and judges bounced 110 out of 179 decided so far, a Washington Post study shows. But the GOP racked up a 28-11 margin from Trump-named Trump judges and 41-99 from judges named by his predecessors. GOP President George W. Bush named Hanen. Bush-named jurists approved voter suppression 17 times and tossed it 14 times.

Those rulings still leave almost 100 lawsuits to go, and even more will be in the pipeline, Trump threatens. The GOP has recruited an army of right-wing attorneys to challenge anything and everything, even down to the level of individual votes. Unions, progressive groups, the Biden campaign, and the Democratic Party have recruited their own volunteer lawyers to ensure every vote is counted.

Besides the third round on just one issue in Houston, notable battles in swing states, according to wire service stories, include:

  • A split decision in Ohio. Judges there rejected the GOP Secretary of State’s scheme to limit ballot drop boxes to one per county. But they upheld signature-matching rules for mail-in voters.
  • By contrast, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) imposed the one-drop-box rule on the Lone Star State’s 254 counties, some of which—rural and thinly populated—are physically enormous. Harris County countered by opening the drive-up voting 24/7 in the week running up through Oct. 30. Progressives lost suits to overturn Abbott’s one-box edict.
  • Pennsylvania, now viewed as the state whose electoral votes most likely will determine who wins the White House, has seen a blizzard of lawsuits. The GOP-run legislature also tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress the vote in majority-minority Philadelphia in particular.

Then the Republicans sued to ban the acceptance of mailed in ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 which arrived at elections boards after that. The U.S. Supreme Court said the local boards could accept such ballots through Nov. 6. But most of Pennsylvania local boards legally can’t start counting mail-in votes, or any others, till after the polls close. Pennsylvania is notoriously slow in counting ballots and its results may be delayed until next week.

  • Polls show Iowa has reverted to its swing-state status. GOP wins in courts may negate that. Judges threw out thousands of absentee ballot applications, and later upheld another GOP-passed law to make it harder to process them.
  • A federal judge in Arizona ruled that voters who forget to sign the absentee ballot envelope—ballots themselves are unsigned—have up to five days after the election to fix that flaw. The GOP has taken that case to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Some 85%+ of the state has already voted, almost all by mail.
  • A Wisconsin federal judge said local elections boards should count mailed-in ballots, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3, that arrive up to six days afterwards. The Wisconsin GOP sued to toss all those ballots out. The Wisconsin case may wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court, which now has a 6-3 GOP-named right-wing majority.
  • In next-door Michigan, which is larger and with more electoral votes, federal judges said election boards should accept mailed-in ballots, postmarked by Nov. 3, for up to 14 days, allowing for postal delays. That case has apparently been settled, and it’s an important win for voters.

The latest news stories, in late October, showed only 71% of first-class mail in the Detroit postal district, including election mail, met the U.S. Postal Service standard of one-to-five-day delivery. The Detroit postal district includes the city, a Democratic bastion, its suburbs, many of which lean Republican, some of them heavily, and majority-Black Flint. The Detroit delivery rate is the second-worst record in the U.S., above only Baltimore. The rest of the state was at 85%.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).