A nakedly political legal manuever that sought to invalidate about 127,000 votes in a deep blue part of Texas was blocked by a federal judge on Monday evening.
The ruling should put an end to an attempt by a group of Republican lawmakers and candidates to block Harris County, which includes Houston, from counting votes cast at a drive-thru voting station. The lawsuit claimed that the drive-thru voting station was illegal under Texas law, which allows so-called "curbside voting" only for individuals with disabilities. Harris County contended that the drive-thru voting station met all the requirements to be a standard polling place under state law: individuals had their IDs checked and voted within the privacy of a temporary tent erected for the purpose.
Republicans had asked both state and federal courts to reject those ballots. The state Supreme Court rejected that request on Sunday night and federal Judge Andrew Hanan followed suit on Monday.
Monday's emergency hearing in federal court had drawn national attention because the case landed before Hanan, a George W. Bush appointee with a history of controversial rulings. Liberals and voting rights activists worried that he might rubberstamp a GOP plot to invalidate hundreds of votes on the eve of Election Day.
But Hanan's ruling turned out to be a thorough rebuke of the Republican challenge. The judge dismissed the case on a technicality—the plaintiffs did not have standing in the lawsuit—but went on to say that he would not have invalidated the already-cast ballots even if the lawsuit had been judged on its merits.
In all ways, that seems like the right outcome. As I wrote yesterday, there was little reason to think those voters should have their ballots tossed out since they were not doing anything wrong. The legal challenge argued that Harris County had overstepped its authority by setting up the drive-thru voting station, but voters using it had merely been complying with the instructions they were given by local election authorities.
There was nothing remotely fraudulent about the 127,000 votes cast in Harris County's drive-thru voting station. Republican efforts to disqualify those votes were nothing more than partisan gamesmanship. The courts are right to have dismissed these lawsuits.