HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a last-ditch Republican effort to invalidate nearly 127,000 votes in Houston.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling Monday concerned ballots cast at drive-thru polling centers that were established during the pandemic.
The judge's decision to hear arguments on the brink of Election Day drew concern from voting rights activists, and came after the Texas Supreme Court rejected a nearly identical challenge over the weekend.
The lawsuit was brought by conservative Texas activists who have railed against expanded voting access in Harris County.
Hanen said the opponents to drive-thru centers — who were represented by former Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill— had no standing to bring a lawsuit. He added that people had already voted and that conservative activists had months to bring a challenge sooner.
But Hanen still expressed doubts about whether Texas law allowed anyone to vote from their car, even in a pandemic.
“If I were voting tomorrow, I would not vote in a drive-thru just out of my concern as to whether that’s legal or not,” Hanen said.
Another 20,000 or more voters were expected to use drive-thru polling locations Tuesday, said Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins, the county’s top elections official.
Several voters who already used the drive-thru centers rushed to join mounting opposition to the lawsuit, including a Houston attorney whose wife was 35 weeks pregnant when she cast her ballot. She gave birth to twins Friday.
The county is the nation’s third largest and a crucial battleground in Texas, where President Donald Trump and Republicans are bracing for the closest election in decades on Tuesday.