Image: State Representative Steve Toth (left), Republican of Conroe, one of the most effective members of the Texas Legislature both during and outside of the Legislative Sessions, shown with State Senator Brandon Creighton (right), Republican of Conroe, on the Third Floor of the Texas State Capitol on May 19, 2019, as they celebrated the passage of the JD Lambright Local Government Reform Act, which they had authored.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Houston and Conroe, November 3 – State Representative Steve Toth, Republican of Conroe and one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins to force Hollins to close his illegal drive-thru voting locations, declared victory after Hollins closed nine of the ten drive-thru locations before Election Day voting began today. The only drive-thru voting location which remains in Harris County is at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston, the one site which is in a neutral, rather than a heavily Democratic location.
Toth, Steve Hotze, M.D., a conservative political activist, and two candidates running for political office in the November 3 General Election filed two lawsuits seeking a writ of mandamus to require Hollins to shut down the drive-thru voting locations, which the Texas Elections Code does not authorize. Hollins, who happens to be the Vice Chairman of the State Finance Committee of the Texas Democratic Party, had placed nine of the voting locations in heavily liberal Democratic parts of Harris County.
On Sunday, November 1, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear Toth’s and the other plaintiffs’ case, without providing any explanation for the denial.
On Monday morning, November 2, however, United States District Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, of federal courts, conducted an oral hearing in downtown Houston. Hanen ruled against Toth and his co-plaintiffs, because the judge determined they lacked standing. Nevertheless, Toth and Hotze made clear they intended to file an emergency appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
Hanen made clear in his written he denied the relief Toth and the other sought, because they lack the standing to bring their claims. (That is a questionable ruling at best.)
Nevertheless, Judge Hanen ruled, “On Election Day, as opposed to early voting, there is no legislative authorization for movable structures as polling places. The Election Code makes clear that, on Election Day, ‘[e]ach polling pace shall be located inside a building.’…if Plaintiffs had standing, the Court would have found that the continuation of drive-thru voting on Election Day violates the Texas Election Code.” Judge Hanen concluded that he would have issued an injunction against Hollins, if the plaintiffs had had standing.
While Toth and the other plaintiffs filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals, Hollins reacted appropriately (for once) and decided early this morning to shut down the drive-thru voting locations in tents. The one drive-thru voting location in a building, the Toyota Center in downtown Houston, will remain open during Election Day.
“We fought for Equal Protection and the rights of all Texas citizens. It was a great victory for all!” Toth told The Golden Hammer in an exclusive interview this morning.
The order from Hollins informing Harris County Election Judges follows.