Texas lawmakers debate bill that would allow partisan actors to demand election audits – Houston Public Media


Signs displayed at Harris County polling stations line up at the polling station on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 in Houston.

Partisan actors could request an audit of the Texas county elections under a new Texas Senate fast-track bill, though it was not added by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Order of day of the extraordinary session.

Senate Bill 47 was introduced on Friday by State Senator Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and would allow party leaders, candidates, judges and county political committees to formally apply to the secretary’s office State of Texas to examine any “irregularity” in an election.

The analysis of the bill refers to a “significant number of irregularities that occurred but were not resolved” in the November 2020 elections, although it does not specifically mention what these irregularities were.

If the secretary of state’s office finds violations, it could impose a fine of $ 500 for each violation that is not corrected within 30 days.

“I think it’s… important that we put in place that no matter where you are in the state, if you have a legitimate question about the irregularity of the elections, that you get an answer.” Bettencourt said at a Senate committee hearing on Monday. “And there is a penalty at the end, if there is non-compliance, of $ 500 per day. And this is to finally ensure that this process comes to an end.

But Stephanie Gómez, associate director of Common Cause Texas, said the bill would create chaos in the electoral process.

“The process creates confusion and mistrust in our democracy, ignites suspicion in the myth of rampant voter fraud, and keeps alive the hopes of those who were so absorbed in disbelief in our democracy and the pursuit of theories.” of the plot that they literally carried out an attack on the United States Capitol not even a year ago, ”Gómez said.

Lawmakers have gathered testimony despite the fact that the bill is not currently on call for the third special session, meaning it is not eligible for final adoption at this time. Governor Abbott, who has sole discretion over what is placed on the call, could put it on the agenda for the next special session if necessary, but so far he has refused to sit down. commit to doing so.

The bill was introduced just over a week after President Donald Trump publicly asked Abbott to put such a measure on the special session’s agenda. Trump argued without evidence that widespread electoral fraud led to his defeat in the 2020 presidential election. At least 63 lawsuits to overturn votes in some states have been dismissed after judges uncover no evidence to support fraud claims.

Hours after Trump made his audit request on September 24, the Secretary of State’s office announced an audit in Harris, Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties, only one of which – Collin County – voted for the former president.

Harris County still had not received requests for audit-related documents from the Secretary of State’s office as of Monday, according to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

In an email, Harris County District Attorney Christian Menefee said the bill was “another attempt to spread the big lie perpetuated by Donald Trump.”

“This bill will only undermine faith in our elections, overwhelm our election officials and waste taxpayer dollars just to appease a few people looking for a problem where there is none,” he said. said Menefee. “We will continue to monitor this bill closely and examine our legal options. “

Election administrator Isabel Longoria did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

There is currently no Texas Secretary of State after Ruth Hughs retired in May, and it was not immediately clear who ordered the audit. A spokesperson for the governor confirmed that Assistant Secretary of State Joe Esparza now heads the acting office.

But even the secretary of state’s office itself has sought to dismiss allegations of widespread fraud in Texas. Earlier this year, an assistant to Hughs tells state lawmakers that “Texas had a smooth and safe election.”

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