World

Judge rejects Republican effort to disqualify 'drive-through' voting

WASHINGTON : A federal judge in Texas rejected on Monday a Republican effort to disqualify "drive-through" voting in Houston, allowing some 127,000 votes in the Democratic-leaning area to stand.

In one of scores of innovations made by election authorities across the country to deal with the Covid-19 challenge, Harris County set up tents in 10 locations that voters could drive into and vote privately from their cars under social-distancing conventions.

The Republican Party of Texas sued as the voting began in early October, saying the drive-through tents did not adhere to existing regulations for voting sites and methods.

Texas Democrats accused Republicans of trying to stifle votes in the Democratic Party stronghold, one of the country's largest voting districts.

Local Texas courts ruled against the original complaint, and on Sunday, the Texas state Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

A separate group of Republicans then lodged a last-ditch complaint.

On Monday, Republican-appointed federal judge Andrew Hanen expressed some reservations about the innovation.

COULD NOT CLAIM HARM

But he finally ruled that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to challenge it, saying they could not claim harm. That allowed the 127,000 votes cast from car windows to stand.

Local officials and Democrats expressed relief.

"Drive-through voting is safe, secure, legal and a common-sense way for voters to cast their ballots during a pandemic," said Ms Lina Hidalgo, head of the Harris County governing body.

"It is beyond comprehension that anyone would seek to invalidate 127,000 votes legally cast by voters."

But Judge Hanen warned that voters should not try the drive-through service on polling day, saying the case could be pushed to a federal appeals court and leave their votes in jeopardy.

"If I were to vote tomorrow, I would not vote in a drive-thru location out of concern about if it's legal or not," he said.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, a judge rejected a Republican lawsuit that aimed to halt counting of mail-in ballots. Republicans claimed they did not have enough access to monitor the counting process. - AFP

WORLD