Houston Rockets Home Court to Be Used as Voting Site in November

  • Ohio lawsuit seeks more drop boxes for mail-in ballots
  • Iowa county auditors can’t set up drop boxes, officials say

The clerk’s office in Harris County, Texas, and the Houston Rockets announced Thursday that the Toyota Center home to the National Basketball Association team will be a voting site for the Nov. 3 general election.

The county added the location in anticipation of record voter turnout in light of the coronavirus pandemic and will follow “strict safety protocols to keep voters and election workers safe at the polls,” Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins said in a release issued by the NBA.

Any registered Harris County voter will be able to cast a ballot at the downtown Houston arena beginning Oct. 13, seven days a week until Oct. 30, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Election Day during those hours. Parking will be free and the center will follow all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health guidelines regarding social distancing, the league said.

More access for voters also is the goal of a lawsuit filed Wednesday by voting rights groups against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, urging a federal court to allow local election boards to install more than one drop box for mail-in ballots.

LaRose (R) required counties to have a drop box for the state’s April all-absentee primaries. But on Aug. 12 he prohibited counties from installing more than one drop box. The League of Women Voters, A. Philip Randolph Institute, and the NAACP allege that directive could suppress the votes of “hundreds of thousands of Ohioans” who now face a “Hobson’s choice.”

Photographer: Brittany Greeson/Getty Images
A voter deposits his absentee ballot in a drop box outside the City of Detroit Department of Elections during the Michigan primary on Aug. 4, 2020.

“One the one hand, voters can risk their lives and health by voting in person so that they have more assurance that their ballots will count,” the groups said in their complaint. “On the other hand, voters have the choice to protect their lives and health by attempting to vote absentee while facing the real possibility that their ballots will not count because of an insufficient number of drop boxes and USPS delays in timely delivering absentee balloting mail.”

In Virginia, state lawmakers advanced legislation Thursday that would allow the use of drop-off ballot boxes. Both the House and the Senate gave preliminary approval to bills (H.B. 5103/S.B. 5210) backed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Meanwhile in Iowa, the Secretary of State’s Office has told county auditors that drop boxes can’t be set up to receive absentee ballots this fall, according to the Des Moines Register.

Office spokesman Kevin Hall said that under state law, auditors have no authority to set up drop boxes, but they “can set up a no-contact delivery system for voters in their office to use during regular business hours,” the newspaper said. The story noted that more than one-third of Iowa’s 99 county auditors said they have used some sort of drop-box system for ballots in the past.

With assistance from Andrew M. Ballard

To contact the reporters on this story: Paul Stinson in Austin, Texas at pstinson@bloomberglaw.com; Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com; Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com

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