The office announced the audit last week but declined to provide more details until Sept. 28.
Phase one of the review is already underway, the office says. This phase involves verifying the accuracy of voting machines, assessing cybersecurity, and pinpointing and removing from voter rolls any people who cast votes illegally in 2020.
State officials have received reports from the Electronic Registration Information Center regarding voters who may have voted twice or who illegally voted in Texas despite living in another state. In addition, officials have identified votes they say were potentially cast by non-U.S. citizens and alerted counties to review each case. Once that’s done, any instances of possible illegal voting will be referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for investigation.
Phase two of the audit, estimated to take place in the spring of next year, is centered on examining the election records from various counties, including Tarrant and Collins counties.
The Secretary of State’s office plans to examine all chain-of-custody forms concerning equipment and all logic and accuracy-testing records for voting machines.
Depending on the results of the examination, there could be a full manual recount in the affected precincts or polling locations.
“The purpose of this audit is to ensure all Texas voters can have confidence in the elections systems in our state, and to address any outstanding issues county election officials may face that undermines the integrity of our elections,” the office said in a statement.
A spokesman said in an email that the office won’t be hiring or contracting with any outside firms to conduct the audits. The position of Texas secretary of state is currently vacant.
Election offices in the four counties didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat, told reporters last week that “the sensational announcement of an audit by the state is nothing more than a political ploy by a former president and someone who’s trying to curry favor.”
“I’m working to do everything in my power to stop this not only because complying with a sham audit will take us away from serious work we have to do but also, and most importantly, because it will take trust away from our election systems here in Harris County and here in Texas,” she said.
The review was announced shortly after former President Donald Trump called on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to carry out a forensic audit of the 2020 election, and shortly before an audit in Arizona was announced to have uncovered multiple inconsistencies.
Trump won Texas in the 2020 election by about 630,000 votes but said in a letter to Abbott that he heard Texans want an audit.
“Your citizens don’t trust the election system,” he wrote. “Texans know voting fraud occurred in some of their counties.”
Abbott defended the audit over the weekend.
“There are audits of every aspect of government. We have a state auditor. There’s a federal auditor for the way that government operations work. Businesses that are public companies are subject to an annual audit,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Why do we audit everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?”
He also said the audit began months ago, although that hadn’t been previously disclosed.