Harris Co. clerk wants Texas Secretary of State to guarantee drive-thru votes will count

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins wants a guarantee that drive-thru votes will count in this election.

On Tuesday, Hollins sent a letter to Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs asking her to guarantee that votes cast at drive-thru polling locations across the county will count in the election.

He is asking that Hughs ensure two things:

  • That the Secretary of State stand by her legal guidance, which Hollins says Director of Elections Keith Ingram gave under oath, that drive-thru voting is lawful in Texas.

  • That the Secretary of State is committed to defending the votes that have been cast at the county's 10 drive-thru voting centers.


Hollins has asked for a response by 12 p.m. Wednesday.

This after Hollins says he attempted to contact Ingram "multiple times with no success or response" following by a lawsuit from Texas' Republican Party to stop drive-thru balloting in Harris County.

Last week, however, the 14th Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit against Hollins' office, allowing for curbside and drive-thru voting to continue.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also released elections guidance on drive-thru voting.

Hollins argued that his office sought advice regarding drive-thru voting from the Secretary of State, writing:

"Your office has repeatedly expressed that drive-thru voting fit the definitions and requirements for a polling place provided in the Texas Election Code for both Early Voting and Election Day. In fact, Director of Elections Keith Ingram has stated under oath in a court proceeding: "It's a creative approach that is probably okay legally... we've told counties who want to try this is that they need to have the location associated with a physical building and that they need to take whoever shows up at that location, whether they are walking, riding a bicycle or driving a car.""

You can read Hollins' letter in full below. If you plan to visit any of Harris County's drive-thru voting centers, you will need to follow certain rules.

Harris County is the first jurisdiction in Texas history to offer this voting method.

Secretary of State Ruth Hughs
1019 Brazos
Austin, Texas 78701

Re: ADVICE REQUIRED: Active Threats to Disenfranchise Tens of Thousands of Harris County Voters

Secretary Hughs:

Under the Texas Election Code, one of your primary duties is to "assist and advise all election authorities with regard to the application, operation, and interpretation of this code..." TEX. ELEC. CODE 31.004(a). As is customary for elections officials across Texas, my office regularly seeks out your trained election experts for exactly this reason-to get advice and assistance from your office about all manner of election-related questions. My office sought such advice regarding drive-thru voting. One of my senior staff spoke with a seasoned attorney in your office about the Texas Election Code polling place requirements for Early Voting and on Election Day.

As you know, the law providing for Early Voting polling places is crystal clear-such a polling place "may be located...in any stationary structure as directed by the authority establishing the branch office. The polling place may be located in a movable structure.... Ropes or other suitable objects may be used at the polling place..." TEX. ELEC. CODE 85.062. Likewise, the law providing for Election Day polling place is also clear-"Each polling place shall be located inside a building." TEX. ELEC. CODE 43.031(b).
Your office has repeatedly expressed that drive-thru voting fit the definitions and requirements for a polling place provided in the Texas Election Code for both Early Voting and Election Day. In fact, Director of Elections Keith Ingram has stated under oath in a court proceeding: "It's a creative approach that is probably okay legally... we've told counties who want to try this is that they need to have the location associated with a physical building and that they need to take whoever shows up at that location, whether they are walking, riding a bicycle or driving a car."
However, after the Republican Parties of Texas and Harris County sued my office to stop drive-thru voting, and after the Attorney General sent a letter expressing his dislike for drive-thru voting, you and your office have gone conspicuously silent. My office has attempted to contact Mr. Ingram multiple times with no success or response.

I am thus writing to you as Secretary of State seeking to ensure two things:
(1) That you stand by your legal guidance-which your Director of Elections gave under oath- that drive-thru voting is lawful in Texas; and
(2) That you are committed to defending the votes (over 60,000 so far, and increasing daily) that have been cast at Harris County's ten (10) drive-thru voting centers.
Given the seriousness of this matter, I respectfully request a response by 12:00 PM tomorrow, October 21. I look forward to continuing to work with your office to protect the right to vote for all Texas voters.


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