New Texas Bill to Allow Secretary of State Rerun Future Elections in Biggest County

New Texas Bill to Allow Secretary of State Rerun Future Elections in Biggest County
Voters cast their ballots during the Democratic presidential primary in Houston, Texas, on March 3, 2020. (Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images)
Bill Pan

A new Republican-backed bill would authorize the Texas Secretary of State to rerun elections in the state’s most populous county if a ballot paper shortage occurs.

The one-page legislation cleared the Texas Senate on Monday in a strictly party-line vote of 19–12. It would give the Secretary of State, a position appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, the authority to order a new election in counties wherein 2 percent or more of the polling places ran out of ballots for more than an hour after calling for a restock.

The measure specifically applies to counties with populations greater than 2.7 million. This metric, for now, only covers Harris County, which is home to over 4.7 million people as of 2020. The second most populous in the state, Dallas County, has a 2020 population of 2.6 million.

Harris County was the target of a two-month audit following “widespread problems” that occurred during the 2022 midterm elections. Among the problems reported, according to Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott, were missing keys, a shortage of paper ballots in Republican precincts, and staffing issues.

“The allegations of election improprieties in our state’s largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct. Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened,” said Abbott, who won reelection by 11 percentage points but lost in Harris County to Democrat challenger, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke.

The audit, led by then-Texas Secretary of State John Scott, yielded a 359-page report (pdf). In Harris County, investigators found “very serious issues in the handling of electronic media,” particularly missing chain-of-custody records for 14 mobile ballot boxes containing about 185,000 ballots, although they didn’t characterize those issues as fraud.
In their own post-election assessment, Harris County election officials said they were unable to find out how many polling places had to turn voters away due to a ballot shortage. They did cite media reports saying that some 24 locations, or a little more than 3 percent of all 782 locations across the county, had that issue on election day.
Another proposed measure, Senate Bill 1750, would abolish the position of county election administrator in counties with a population of more than 3.5 million and transfer election duties to the county clerk and tax assessor-collector.

The latest version of Senate Bill 1750 contains a grandfather provision, meaning that if it becomes law, its enforcement won’t affect the 2022 midterm results.

“The county tax assessor-collector shall serve as the voter registrar and the duties and functions of the county clerk that were performed by the administrator revert to the county clerk,” the bill reads.

The Senate passed the bill on April 18.

The Texas House Elections Committee approved a piece of legislation identical to the Senate bill on Monday and will be up for debate on the House floor.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Senate Bill 1750 was passed with Democrat state Sen. César Blanco’s vote. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
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