Ropes & Gray, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Texas NAACP Challenge Decision to Limit Ballot Drop Boxes to One Per Texas County
Ropes & Gray, with Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is representing the Texas NAACP pro bono in a lawsuit filed today against Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The lawsuit, Texas State Conference of the NAACP v. Abbott, alleges that Gov. Abbott’s Oct. 1 order, which permits only one secure ballot drop box in each Texas county for the upcoming U.S. general election, is unconstitutional and a direct act of voter suppression. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division.
The lawsuit seeks a court order that will permit county election administrators to establish more than one location for ballot drop-boxes in each county, and prohibit Gov. Abbott or any other election official in Texas from taking actions that will prevent this.
The lawsuit points out that Harris and Travis Counties were already operating secure absentee ballot drop-off locations that had already accepted absentee ballots and had to be closed as a result of Gov. Abbott’s order. The complaint alleges that long lines have already formed at Harris County’s sole drop-off location, NRG Stadium, and that additional demand for ballot drop boxes is justified given the mounting delays and ongoing problems with the United States Postal Service. In addition, Gov. Abbott himself noted how the COVID-19 pandemic would cause changes to election administration, and issued a proclamation extend early voting and other vote-by-mail options in July.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission recommends one ballot drop-box location for every 20,000 registered voters, where nearly all Texas counties currently have well over that number of voters restricted to one drop-off location. Gov. Abbott’s order will also disproportionately impact the state’s Black and Latino community, due to their concentration in the state’s most populous areas. The suit claims Gov. Abbott’s order places an excessive burden on the fundamental right to vote for all Texans.
The Ropes & Gray team that worked on the filing included senior counsel John Montgomery and litigation & enforcement associate Dee FitzGerald.
"Free and fair elections are critical to our democracy,” John said. “The Governor’s order impinges on that privilege by changing the rules of the process at the eleventh hour.”
Read the full lawsuit here.