Travis County judge says Texas counties can have multiple absentee ballot drop-off sites, but an appeal is likely
A Travis County state district judge on Thursday ordered a halt to Gov. Greg Abbott's directive limiting Texas counties to one drop-off location for hand delivery of absentee ballots. The ruling is the latest turn in a handful of lawsuits in state and federal courts challenging Abbott's Oct. 1 order, which shut down multiple ballot drop-off locations in Harris and Travis counties.
On Monday, a federal appeals court upheld the Republican governor's order under federal law, overturning a lower court's ruling. The Travis County decision, however, applies to potential violations of state law.
A Texas-based Anti-Defamation League, voting rights advocacy group and a voter filed the lawsuit in Travis County district court last week arguing that the governor doesn't have authority under state law to limit absentee ballot delivery locations. The lawsuit also claimed Abbott's order violates voters' equal protection rights under the state constitution.
In a short order Thursday, Travis County District Judge Tim Sulak ruled against Abbott and the Texas secretary of state.
"The limitation to a single drop-off location for mail ballots would likely needlessly and unreasonably increase risks of exposure to COVID-19 infections, and needlessly and unreasonably substantially burden potential voters' constitutionally protected rights to vote, as a consequence of increased travel and delays, among other things," Sulak wrote.
It's unclear if and when additional mail-in ballot drop-off locations might be re-opened. Travis County had four drop-off locations before the Oct. 1 order, and Harris County had a dozen in place. But the decision is expected to quickly be appealed to a higher state court.
Austin is in for an early start to what is threatening to be an unseasonably hot summer.
So far, this month has been the hottest May on record with Camp Mabry reporting an average temperature of 82 degrees, compared to the National Weather Service’s recorded average of 74 degrees from May 1-10.
Austin has been an average of 8 degrees hotter than normal this month—the hottest May since 1898. NWS meteorologist Keith White told Austonia that Austinites have La Niña to thank for this sweaty summer.
What is causing the heatwave?
A phenomenon characterized by cooling waters across the central and eastern pacific oceans, La Niña tends to cause cooler and wetter conditions in the northern U.S. but warmer and drier conditions across Central Texas. We would typically be on our way out of La Niña at this time of year, according to White, but the heat can be turned around with a little rain.
White explained that the sun is able to heat dry ground—due to the drought and La Niña—more efficiently than wet ground. West Austinites might be feeling more of the heat, as the drought has been worse west of town.
Austin is entering its rainy season, which tends to fall between May and October. The last 30 days have seen about 2-4 inches of rain, which is just a touch below average, but White said the end of May is looking rainy, which could quell the heat.
“There will be some dependency on if we're able to pick up some more beneficial rains here,” White said. “While at least over the course of the next week it looks likely to remain dry, there may be some rain chances returning toward the end of May.”
Does a record-breaking May mean a record-breaking summer?
Not necessarily, though in part due to climate change, all of the top five hottest summers have been recorded since 2008 with the hottest to date in 2011. Meanwhile, 2021 was only the 38th hottest summer on record.
White said that means climate variability is superimposed against climate change, meaning temperatures are gradually rising, but the amount of rain we receive could make a huge difference.
While 2011 saw more than 90 100-degree days, 2021 only saw 12 100-degree days.
“As our climate warms, the risk of excessive heat will increase because you're taking the average temperature and moving it up,” White said.
How to stay safe and cool
With rising temperatures, there is always a risk of heat-related illness. In fact, White said last weekend there were 29 heat-related illness calls to Austin EMS.
The best way to avoid getting sick in the hot Texas summer is to wear light clothing, drink lots of water, take breaks in air-conditioned areas and familiarize yourself with symptoms of hyperthermia.
And prepare yourself for the first half of August, which is traditionally the hottest time of year.
Tour some of Austin’s diverse creatives as they open their studios. Metal Sculptor Barry George will donate part of his proceeds to the Save Our Springs Alliance.
Starting at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday | Thornton Road Studios, 2309 Thornton Rd.
Sip your way across Texas by tasting more than 100 whiskeys, meet the people from the 36 distilleries who made them and sing along to Piano Punch dueling pianos. Tickets start at $89 and visitors must be 21 to attend.
Starting 6 p.m. Friday or 5:30 p.m. Saturday | Star Hill Ranch, 15000 Hamilton Pool Rd.
The Austin Humane Society is bringing back its 8th annual Kitten Shower, featuring children’s activities, a bake-off competition, kitten yoga, a kitten donation drive and local vendors. Admission is free.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday | Austin Humane Society, 124 W. Anderson Lane
Celebrating Asian American Pacific American heritage month, CelebrASIA is returning with live music, activities for all ages and local food vendors. The event is free and open to the public.
11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday | Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Rd.
Over 10,000 lbs of crawfish—enough to go around—are guaranteed at Fiesta Gardens this weekend, plus extra bites from local restaurants. While you munch, enjoy games; live music from Calder Allen, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Zach Person and more. Tickets start at $14.99.
Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday | Fiesta Gardens, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St.
More than 200 different types of natural wines, beers and fermented foods in a salon-style tasting at Jester King this weekend. Plus, you can gaze at the farm’s goats all the while. Tickets start at $65 and visitors must be 21 to attend.
1-6:30 p.m. Saturday, 12-6:30 p.m. Sunday | Jester King Farm and Brewery, 13187 Fitzhugh Rd.
Celebrate National Mimosa Day a little early at Mimosa Fest 2022, at this “boozy, bougie, brunchy day party” perfect for the drink’s enthusiasts. Expect live music, food and all the mimosas your heart could desire. Tickets start at $45 and visitors must be 21 to attend.11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday | Fair Market, 1100 E 5th St.
Catch our local Minor League play against the Oklahoma City Dodgers play at home this week. Tickets start at $10.1:05 p.m. Sunday | Dell Diamond, 3400 E Palm Valley Blvd.
Austin FC is facing Real Salt Lake in an away game this weekend, but true Verde fans can still support from home at the official watch party. Arrive early as space is limited.
Kickoff at 8:30 p.m. Sunday | The Pub, 214 W. 4th St. Suite A