Republican lawmakers in the Texas state Senate have advanced a bill that would allow the state Secretary of State to overturn election results specifically in Harris County, a Democratic Party stronghold and the most populous county in the state.
Under the terms of the bill, the Texas secretary of state — a position that has been held by Republicans for decades in the state — would have the ability to overturn the results of elections in the county if voting difficulties occurred. For instance, if a voting location ran out of ballots and delayed voting by more than an hour, the election results could be tossed out under the GOP proposal.
The bill doesn’t mention Harris County by name. Rather, the bill states that its provisions affect counties with populations greater than 2.7 million residents.
Just one jurisdiction meets that threshold in Texas: Harris County, which, as home to Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, has a population of over 4.7 million people.
Only 2 percent of voting locations would need to experience problems in order to discount the results in the entire county, the bill stipulates. A new election would have to take place, whose date would be decided by the secretary of state themselves, creating the potential for a delay in representation for residents in the county. This would likely cut into voter turnout for the new election date and potentially affect results of statewide elections, skewing results toward Republicans.
The secretary of state would not have to prove that voting issues occurred to invalidate results under the bill – only that they had “good cause” to believe such issues did.
The bill appears to be a direct response to the 2022 midterm elections, during which Republicans falsely alleged that ballot shortages in Harris County resulted in election fraud benefiting Democrats. Such claims have never been validated, and voters were granted extra time to cast ballots in the county on Election Day last year to remedy the problem.
The bill passed the state Senate on Tuesday. It now heads to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
On its face, the bill appears to be a direct, partisan attack against Democrats.
“Republicans [are] weaponizing 2020 election lies to rig elections,” political strategist Sawyer Hackett said on Twitter.
“Only Harris County — Texas’ largest Democratic county with 4.7m people — would be affected by this bill. This is fascism,” wrote Voto Latino, a nationwide grassroots organization dedicated to empowering Latinx voters.
Elections lawyer Marc Elias, who frequently represents Democratic candidates and causes in elections disputes, said he may challenge the bill if it becomes law.
“If this is enacted, it will be an unprecedented step toward state-sponsored election subversion. We will review carefully to see if and when a legal challenge is appropriate,” he said.
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