Texas Governor sent bill abolishing Harris County Chief Electoral Officer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Shaking up the election in Texas’ largest county, the GOP-controlled legislature on Tuesday approved the elimination of a position in Harris County that oversees more than 2 million voters around Houston. months before the city chooses a new mayor.
At the same time, Republicans have advanced a separate plan that would also have a singular impact on Harris County, a growing Democratic stronghold: Allow the state to take greater control over elections there if it is determined that there is a “pattern of problems”.
The state’s GOP majority push has resurfaced tensions over voting in the Texas Capitol, two years after Democratic lawmakers stood down for 93 days to protest new voting restrictions that also targeted the county. of Harris.
At the center of the proposed changes this time around are last year’s election in Harris County, where local officials acknowledged issues such as shortages of paper ballots and delayed ballot openings. Republican candidates contested losses in races across the county. There is no evidence that the issues had an impact on the results.
The elections were led by the Harris County Elections Administrator, a position created by the county in 2020. The bill directed at Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would return election oversight in the county to the tax assessor and to the County Clerk, both of which are elective offices currently held. by Democrats.
“It’s not working in Harris County after multiple attempts,” Republican state Rep. Briscoe Cain said of the county having an election administrator.
The change would come into effect on September 1. For more than an hour at the Texas House, Democrats voiced concerns that Harris County wouldn’t have enough time to change oversight before November’s mayoral election and accused Republicans of singling out the county because that he was walking away. two.
“Your party loses the election and you lose your mind,” said Democratic State Rep. Jarvis Johnson.
Election bills approved in the House would not apply to any of the other 253 counties in Texas. The Senate is yet to give final approval this week to the other measure that could allow the secretary of state to intervene in the Houston election after investigating complaints.
In Georgia, two years ago, Republican state lawmakers included a provision that could ultimately allow the state to take over a county’s elections. It was quickly used to target Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, with a bipartisan review panel appointed in August 2021 to assess the county’s election processes.
Another bill advanced on Tuesday puts Texas on a path to exit a nationwide program that has proven successful in combating voter fraud but has become a target of suspicion among GOP activists and former President Donald Trump.
Texas has for years been part of the Electronic Registration Information Center, more commonly known as ERIC, a bipartisan effort among states to ensure accurate voting rolls. Texas lawmakers are instead considering replacing ERIC with another system, which has not yet been identified or proven to work.
Other GOP states have also pulled out of ERIC in recent months, including Florida, Missouri, West Virginia and Louisiana.
Associated Press reporter Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.