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Texas County Drops Election Admin Lawsuit

Harris County Sign
Harris County Sign | Image by KHOU

Harris County has dropped a lawsuit targeting a new Texas law that requires all counties with more than 3.5 million residents to eliminate their appointed election administrator positions.

SB 1750, which went into effect on September 1, requires Harris County, the largest county in Texas, to have all election administration and voter registration responsibilities transferred to the elected county clerk and tax assessor-collector, according to the Texas Scorecard.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee filed a notice of “nonsuit without prejudice,” which drops the lawsuit but allows the county to refile the complaint in the future.

Menefee also filed a motion to abate the appeal while requesting that the court cancel the oral arguments scheduled for November 28.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R- Houston), who authored SB 1750, responded to the filings by posting a statement on social media, writing that it was “a frivolous lawsuit and a waste of taxpayer money and time.”

“Already County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth was credited with an improved Elections Administration by the public, and who knows, maybe Judge @LinaHidalgoTX agrees that our elected officials are doing a better job than her two appointed EAs ever did back in 2022!”

Once the case is officially dismissed, the State of Texas is expected to file a motion to dismiss Harris County’s appeal before the Texas Supreme Court’s January 26, 2024 deadline, per the Texas Scorecard.

The initial lawsuit alleged that the law was unconstitutional because Harris County was the only county that meets the minimum of 3.5 million residents, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

In response to the suit, Travis County District Judge Karin Crump ruled that the law be temporarily blocked from going into effect, claiming that it could cause “inefficiencies, disorganization, confusion, office instability, and increased costs to Harris County.”

The state filed an appeal with the Texas Supreme Court just hours after this decision, resulting in a pause to the lower court’s ruling. Harris County then requested that the highest state court uphold the lower court’s ruling and pause the law until a decision was finalized. That request was denied, and the law officially went into effect at the beginning of September.

SB 1750 was inspired by alleged failures on the part of local governments during elections, such as the March 2022 primary that resulted in the resignation of Harris County elections administrator Isabel Longoria.

Two lawsuits were filed against Longoria after the election, which alleged multiple issues of significance, including late reports on results and a lack of staff at polling places, according to the Texas Scorecard.

Bettencourt released a statement following the Texas Supreme Court’s decision, writing that the bill “has always been about performance, not politics.”

“I commend the Texas Supreme Court on their decision to restore voter trust, accountability, and transparency in Harris County elections,” he added, per The Dallas Express.

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