[Ed. – Looks like the judge got this one about right. There’s no unambiguous case that allowing people to vote from their cars is illegal. It’s already authorized as an exception, for voters with disabilities. There’s no reasonable remedy for 127K people who’ve already voted. But granting the plaintiffs’ demand to keep the drive-thru ballots segregated in case of issues later is spot on.]
As our Mairead McArdle reports, a federal judge in Houston has turned down a request by a conservative activist and three individuals (the latter are Republican candidates) to invalidate a drive-through voting procedure under which an estimated 127,000 ballots have already been submitted in Harris County, a Democratic Party stronghold. Judge Andrew Hanen is skeptical, however, about the legality of the procedure and has urged voters not to use it anymore. He also granted the plaintiffs’ request to preserve all records indicating which ballots were cast by the procedure in the event there is further litigation, including appeals, challenging the ballots.
The case presents several knotty policy considerations. In defending the procedure, the Harris County Clerk argues that, under the Supreme Court’s “Purcell doctrine,” courts must not interfere in an election at the eleventh hour. That is true, but it is also a claim often posited disingenuously to defend actions that have lawlessly changed the election rules late in the game — i.e., actions that themselves violate the Purcell doctrine, as the state elections division’s drive-through procedure arguably does.