TX Legislators Target Election Concerns


Paper General Election Ballot | Image by Lost_in_the_Midwest/Shutterstock

Following several highly charged election cycles filled with accusations and integrity concerns, Texas conservatives have unrolled several proposals to increase transparency and voter confidence.

Currently, 22 election-related lawsuits have been filed in Harris County following the recent midterm elections. During that cycle, many polling locations in predominately Republican areas were not provided enough ballots, leading Gov. Greg Abbott to order an investigation, as reported by The Dallas Express.

These lawsuits were denounced by Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, who claimed the challengers were “throwing nonsensical legal theories at the wall” and that “these claims should not be taken seriously by the public.”

“These election contests are frivolous attempts to overturn the votes of more than a million residents in the third largest county in the country,” he continued. “Voters have moved on. Public servants have moved on. These losing candidates should move on too.”

However, an initial report from the Harris County Elections Administration Office reported that 68 voting centers claimed to have run out of paper. A recent investigative study conducted by KHOU 11 found that at least 121 voting centers failed to receive enough ballots based on historical turnout data.

Gov. Abbott responded to the study, tweeting, “Harris Co. election ballot paper shortage far bigger than initially estimated. It’s so big it may have altered the outcome of elections.”

“It may necessitate new elections,” he continued. “It WILL necessitate new LAWS that prevent Harris Co. from ever doing this again.”

Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) agrees.

“I’ve got some bills filed,” he told The Dallas Express, “but there’s a lot more coming.”

“They relate predominantly to problems that we’re having with Harris County,” the senator suggested.

Pointing also to a law passed in 2021 relating to election integrity, Bettencourt continued to suggest the bills are a “reaction to really bad operational practices in Harris County that have resulted, in my opinion, in the disenfranchisement of several thousand voters — literally voter suppression at the polls.”

“There’s just flat no excuse for it in the 21st century,” he declared. “And Harris County is too big of an electorate to ignore. It would be the size of the 26th state of the Union; it would have 10 to 11 electoral votes; and it’s the nation’s third-largest county.”

So far, Sen. Bettencourt has filed a bill to create what would be called “Election Marshals” to monitor elections and ensure that lawful procedures are followed. However, he indicated to The Dallas Express that “at least a dozen bills” are still in the works.

One tentative proposal would be to eliminate the “elections administrator” office and require that elections be run by elected officials, pointing again to the issues that Harris County has had under several different appointed administrators.

“Look, it destroys public confidence in elections when you put one on and you don’t have ballot paper because their votes are not going to count now,” Bettencourt noted. “So my question is, why not return it back to elected officials? … They’ve got to be more accountable to the public.”

Bettencourt also suggested setting up a “rocket docket” for election-related lawsuits to streamline the process moving forward and institute automatic recounts in tight elections.

When asked about his hopes for successfully passing these bills, the senator confidently remarked, “I’ve never had more executive sponsorship on voter integrity legislation like I do now because of how bad, how public, and how obvious these Harris County issues are.”

Compounding these concerns, the Secretary of State’s Forensic Audit Division (FAD) report recently suggested severe issues in not only Harris County’s 2020 election but Dallas County’s as well, claiming the latter had “two large problems.”

The electronic poll books used reportedly created “phantom voters,” meaning that “when a voter checked in, the electronic pollbook checked in a different voter.” The audit only identified 188 instances of this but claimed it was “unable to determine if additional voters were affected due to incomplete records.”

Even more seriously, the number of early votes originally recorded (76,991) was less than the final count (78,147), representing a difference of 1,156 votes.

Furthermore, the FAD claimed, “Dallas County did not have any of the Secretary of State-recommended Election Security plans in place for 2020,” and, “They dealt with and responded to cybersecurity threats without a plan.”

Other solutions to election concerns have been proposed, including a bill by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Rockwall) which would strictly limit the use of computers in elections in favor of paper ballots. The Dallas County Republican Party has expressed support for such a solution.

Hall did not respond to The Dallas Express’ requests for comment by the time of publication.

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