The Texas House Elections Committee passed a bill Monday that would force Harris County to eliminate the person in charge of running elections. Senate Bill 1750 would eliminate the job of county elections supervisor in Harris County.
Instead, the county clerk and tax assessor-collector would be responsible for running elections. The bill, written by Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, was passed by the Senate on April 18. It will now be talked about in the House.
Harris County Election Chief Elimination Bill
The bill was originally written to affect all counties with more than 1 million people. Still, it was changed to only affect Harris County after Bettencourt’s office did a survey of Texas’s largest counties and found that only Harris County had constant problems, said Rep. Briscoe Cain, who presented House Bill 3876 in committee Thursday.
“Each election seems to bring a new and bigger election disaster than the last,” said Cain, a Republican. “Harris County leadership has done nothing to remedy this embarrassingly poor quality of operation of the elections department.”
This is one of about a dozen bills that Bettencourt has introduced this session that some voting rights activists say are a political response to problems on Election Day in Harris County in the past year. The Texas Election Code lets county election boards decide, based on their own needs, whether to give election duties to elected positions like the county clerk and tax assessor-collector or to set up an elections department and hire a nonpartisan elections administrator.
Harris was the last big Texas county to set up an elections department and hire an elections administrator. This happened in 2020. In the 1980s, Dallas County, for example, made a job for someone to run elections. Currently, a little more than half of Texas’ 254 counties hire someone to run their elections.
“This takes away all of that local power and that democracy involved in the process, and it’s just a takeover of one specific county that would not actually do anything for solutions for election administration,” said Katya Ehresman, voting rights program director for Common Cause Texas.
In November’s general election, Harris County had to give people an extra hour to vote because some polling places had broken voting machines, ran out of paper ballots, or had long lines. More than 20 lawsuits have been made against the county by Republican candidates who lost the election. You may see North Texas Mayors Have Limited Competition In Municipal Elections
They say that these problems happened and want the election to be redone. Clifford Tatum was hired as the county’s second elections supervisor two months before the November election. At first, he didn’t know how many polling places ran out of paper on Election Day or if anyone was stopped from voting because of this.
Tatum didn’t have a sophisticated tracking system like the ones that many election officials use to deal with problems at voting places all over the county in real-time. He has since said that the county will have a method like this for the municipal election on May 6.
We have a tweet about the Harris County being ready for the May runoff. The elections chief just told the Commissioners Court that early voting looks good. But there’s still a need to fill Election Day polling site positions. You can see below:
.. Will Harris County be ready for the May runoff? The elections chief (who’s leaving following previous issues) just told the Commissioners Court that early voting looks good. But there’s still a need to fill Election Day polling site positions 🗳 #khou11 @KHOU pic.twitter.com/O3pQTl09HL
— Jason Miles (@JMilesKHOU) April 26, 2022
Bettencourt has said that he thinks wrongdoing is to blame for the problems in Harris County. He has pointed to a story from a TV station in Houston that says more than 100 places ran out of paper, which he says kept mostly Republican voters from voting. However, a recent investigation by the Houston Chronicle found that only about 20 of the more than 782 voting places ran out of paper.
The newspaper found that areas with low paper supplies were slightly more likely to have a lot of Trump voters in 2020, but it’s impossible to know if that’s where those voters cast their ballots because they can vote anywhere in Harris County. You must check out Governor Abbott Selects Alvis And Meade For Texas Transportation Commission
On Thursday, some people who supported the bill asked members of the House Elections Committee to give voting tasks back to elected officials all over Texas, not just in Harris County. Laura Pressley, a well-known voter fraud activist who often sues counties, election administrators, and the Texas secretary of state for not following the Texas Election Code as she understands it, said,
“These problems are happening in other counties, like Bexar County, Dallas County, Bell County, medium-sized counties, and Gillespie County, where the elections administrators are committing what I believe to be criminal acts.” “And the election commission doesn’t have the political will to do anything.”
Thursday, more than a dozen people signed up to talk about Bettencourt’s bill. But Republican Rep. Reggie Smith, who is in charge of the Texas House Elections Committee, said that no leaders from Harris County testified.
“No one in leadership from Harris County came to defend themselves,” Smith said. “Not [Harris County Commissioner] Rodney Ellis, and not the [elections administrator], nobody showed up to defend them.”
Some people who support voting rights and members of the public who spoke out against the bill on Thursday said that there have been problems with how elections have been run in Harris County in recent years but that Bettencourt’s bill won’t fix those problems.
“A lot of those solutions are done through investment of resources, of staff, not abolishing an office and potentially causing staff to leave or have their positions removed,” Ehresman said. “With 30 days left in session, we haven’t had any hearings or public testimony on online voter registration or high school voter registration or investments in our election administration. We have very little time to actually do anything proactive for our elections.”
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