AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott is facing another lawsuit from Houston conservative Steven Hotze, who is joined by the Texas GOP chairman and several GOP lawmakers in asking the Texas Supreme Court to block Abbott’s extension of the early voting period by a week due to COVID-19.
The order dates to July 27, when the governor announced an executive order that will begin early voting on Tuesday, Oct. 13, to go through Oct. 30, in order to reduce lines and protect voters and poll workers from the spread of the coronavirus.
Between Abbott’s mask mandate, the shutdown of bars and the extension of early voting, the governor has received an unusual amount of criticism from his own party.
The suit argues that Abbott, without addressing the state Legislature, does not have the power to extend the voting period. An Abbott spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
“Abbott’s Executive Orders are unprecedented and have had life and death implications, destroyed small businesses and family’s livelihoods, have had a crippling effect on every single community, and now have the ability to impact local, state and national elections,” the lawsuit said.
Notable Republicans listed on the lawsuit include state party Chairman Allen West and state Sens. Pat Fallon and Charles Perry along with state Reps. Cecil Bell Jr., Dan Flynn, Steve Toth and Bill Zedler.
Sen. Donna Campbell, who was originally listed on the suit, wrote a letter to the plaintiffs' attorney stating that she did not agree to be involved in the suit.
“You have included my name as a Relator on this legal matter. I did not agree to join this cause of action,” the letter said. “I do not agree with the basic construct of the matter. You are not authorized to represent me on this or any other matter. I demand that you withdraw my name and make every effort to see that it is stricken from every record.”
Hotze has continuously criticized and repeatedly sued Abbott over his stay-at-home order, mask mandate and Texas' contact tracing program, though he has had little to no success in overturning Abbott’s orders.
Wednesday’s filing is Hotze’s latest aim at Abbott’s early voting extension. Last month, Hotze filed a similar lawsuit with another group of Republicans, including Bryan Slaton, the Republican candidate running for Texas House in District 2, and Sharon Hemphill, the Republican candidate running for district judge in Harris County.
“This draconian order is contrary to the Texas spirit and invades the liberties the people of Texas protected in the constitution,” the August lawsuit stated. “If the courts allow this invasion of liberty, today’s circumstances will set a precedent for the future, forever weakening the protections Texans sacrificed to protect.”
Abbott has also received plenty of pushback from Democrats, who continue to criticize the governor’s fight against mail-in voting and his response to COVID-19.
“We should be expanding early voting and vote by mail options, not cutting them,” said Abhi Rahman, Texas Democratic Party spokesman. “We support voters having every opportunity to vote and have been fighting for those options the entirety of this pandemic — and the decades before that.”
As of National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, Texas Secretary of the State Ruth Hughs said there were over 16 million registered voters in Texas. With just under two weeks remaining until the voter registration deadline, the 2020 elections are expected to feature record-breaking voter turnout.