Texas lawmakers approved two bills Tuesday aimed at Harris County elections that would give state Republicans the power to remove the county's elections administrator and allow the Texas secretary of state to oust local elections officials for "good cause" after an election complaint is filed.
The bills apply to counties with more than 3.5 or 4 million people, respectively; Harris is the only county in the state that meets those criteria.
Under Senate Bill 1933, written by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Secretary of State Jane Nelson—who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott—can remove a local official after conducting an investigation prompted by "a recurring pattern of problems with election administration." Examples of recurring issues include a malfunctioning voting system that stops a person from casting a vote, misconduct in distributing election supplies and errors in counting results that would have impacted the outcome of an election, among others. The House approved SB 1933 in an 81-59 vote.
Senate Bill 1750 removes the elections administrator position in counties with 3.5 million people or more. In an 81-62 vote, House lawmakers voted to pass SB 1750 Tuesday afternoon.
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Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, the author of both measures, says they are necessary in the wake of recurring difficulties the county has experienced since creating the office of elections administrator in 2020.
"Harris County has suffered since 2020 from elections administrators who have lost 10,000 ballots, failed to provide sufficient ballots, paper ballots to over 120 polls, provided unreconcilable election results, improperly instructed the signature verification committee on how to review mail ballots...and the list is seemingly endless,” Bettencourt said.
Bettencourt said that Harris County's problems are too big for the state to ignore. "Harris County election results have a significant impact on the entire state of Texas by producing approximately 1.1 million of the 8.1 million votes in the November election," he said.
The two bills further narrow local control of elections following Senate Bill 1, which was signed into law in 2021 and banned drive-thru voting, 24-hour voting, and added restrictions on distributing mail-in ballot applications. SB 1 was passed after Harris County expanded voter access during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SB 1070 was signed effectively removing ERIC (who’s CEO recently resigned) from purging the states voter rolls. Other states have also pulled out of ERIC in recent months, including Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, and Louisiana.
Harris County has 4.7 million residents, with 782 polling places across the county. After the 2022 midterm elections, 21 of GOP candidates filed lawsuits against the county, citing paper ballot shortages at voting centers and technical issues on machines. Republican candidates and lawmakers argue the problems on Election Day disenfranchised voters and turned away thousands of voters. But an April report by the Houston Chronicle dispelled those claims, finding that based on county data, around 21 locations lost paper on Election Day.
Local officials, including Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, said the fight isn't over and that they are evaluating legal options. Meaning they will be using taxpayer money to file suits for once again another power grab over our electoral process.
"Republican legislators are again targeting Harris County, singling us out to score cheap political points," Menefee said in a Tuesday statement. "This sets a dangerous precedent, and we all know the legislators in Austin won’t stop here – this will lead to more attempts to remove local officials in the state’s most diverse counties.
Once again, the Democrats from the county decry racism at every front that challenges election integrity. “I think it would make a mockery of our democracy,” Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis (D) said of the legislation. “It would be a throwback to the forties and fifties.” It is evident that Commissioner Ellis has no concept of what democracy is and that Texas is a Constitutional Republic.
If signed by the governor, both bills will go into effect on Sept. 1.
Thye will find a sleezy Democrap judge to block this
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me......wrong!!!!!