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Hotze v. Hollins

Issues: Whether nearly 127,000 votes cast via drive-through voting during the early voting period in Harris County, Texas, which contains much of the city of Houston, violate state election laws and should be invalidated.
State: Texas
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit
Status: Suit dismissed by federal district court and appeal denied by 5th Circuit; Officials to close most drive-through sites on Election Day out of precaution

A challenge to approximately 127,000 ballots cast at drive-through voting sites in Harris County, Texas, could be moving quickly through the federal courts in the run-up to the election. The county, which is both the largest in the state and has a high number of Democratic voters, responded to the coronavirus pandemic by creating 10 drive-through voting sites.

Republicans went to federal court, arguing that votes cast using the drive-through sites should be tossed out because the Harris County clerk did not have the power to order drive-through voting.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen rejected the Republicans’ request on Nov. 2. He ruled that the Republicans lacked a legal right to sue, known as standing. But even if they had standing, Hanen added, he still would deny the request on the merits.

Shortly after Hanen issued his decision, Republicans appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

They sought an emergency order blocking Harris County from using drive-through voting on Election Day. The 5th Circuit rejected the request. The Harris County clerk also announced that he would close nine of the county’s 10 drive-through sites on Election Day as a precautionary measure, to ensure that votes cast on Election Day would be counted. (The clerk, Chris Hollins, suggested that the 10th site, in the garage at the arena used by the Houston Rockets, could survive a post-election challenge because it was “unquestionably a suitable location for Election Day voting.”)