Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Thursday limiting ballot drop-off locations to one per county in what one county clerk says is "a deliberate attempt to manipulate the election." Harris County, encompassing Houston and some 4.7 million residents, planned 12 drop-off sites following an executive order in July. Though Texas previously let mail-in voters—restricted to those who are 65 and older, have a disability, are in jail, or will be out of town on election day, per Reuters—return ballots in person only on election day, the July order permitted early returns. It also extended early voting. But members of Abbott's own Republican party sued over the changes, per the Guardian. Abbott said Thursday's order, also requiring poll watchers to be in place, would "ensure greater transparency" and "help stop attempts at illegal voting," per CNN, which notes "mail ballot fraud is exceedingly rare."
Some are concerned this is in response to a wide Democratic lead in mail voting. Polls show a close race between President Trump and Joe Biden in the typically red Texas, whose urban centers tend to lean blue. "Republicans are on the verge of losing, so Governor Abbott is trying to adjust the rules last-minute," says Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Travis County, including Austin, was to have four drop-off sites, Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir tells NPR, adding "this is a deliberate attempt to manipulate the election." Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins predicts "widespread confusion and voter suppression" as 12 drop-off locations have been advertised there for weeks. "To force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single drop-off location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous," he tells the Guardian. (Read more Texas stories.)