Harris County officials to sue state over controversial election bills

AUSTIN, TX – MAY 27: The Texas State Capitol building, located on 1100 Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas, was constructed between 1882-1888. The building was recognized as an American National Historic Landmark in 1986. (Photo by Ross Lewis/Getty Images) (Ross Lewis, 2018 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Officials in Harris County announced Wednesday their intent to sue the state of Texas over a pair of controversial bills which would impact elections in the county.

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee was joined by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis to announce they will sue over Senate Bill 1750 and Senate Bill 1933.

“On September 1, 2023, all powers and duties of the county elections administrator of a county with a population of more than one million under this subchapter are transferred to the county tax assessor-collector and county clerk. 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 text of SB 1750 reads.

“SB 1750 abolishes the elections administrator office in only Harris County, placing the Harris County Clerk in charge of running elections and the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector in charge of voter registration,” a news release from the Harris County Attorney said.

SB 1993 would allow the Secretary of State to call for a do-over election in Harris County if more than 2 percent of polling locations run out of ballot paper for more than one hour.

“SB 1933 allows the Secretary of State to exert control over, and file lawsuits to remove, only two elected officials in the entire state: the Harris County Clerk and the Harris County Tax-Assessor Collector,” the news release stated.

“Texas lawmakers in Austin are undermining Harris County government and targeting three, Black Harris County officials. They’re blowing up our elections office and setting the stage to remove two elected officials. This is more than just bad public policy, it’s bad for our democracy,” said County Attorney Menefee. “We’re suing state officials because these bills are clearly unconstitutional – our state’s constitution bars lawmakers from passing laws that target one specific city or county, putting their personal vendettas over what’s best for Texans. Republican lawmakers are disregarding the will of Harris County voters. But to protect Harris County communities, our public servants, and our residents – we’re going to fight.”

In response to the announcement, the author of the bills, Sen. Paul Bettencourt, released the following statement:

“There’s a reason why laws are passed in the State of Texas, so that Counties and Election Administrators can follow them. The reason why the EA position and its duties have been returned to the elected officials by SB 1750 is that they did the job for decades correctly, therefore this is about performance, not politics.

“Both elected Democrat Harris County Office Holders have extensive prior experience in elections and voter registration. The intent of the law is clear to return these duties to both of them, not just the County Clerk. These points were considered by the Legislature and debated, and the law signed by the Governor will be final.

“It’s up to County Judge Hidalgo to realize that both her appointed Election Administrators, one who already resigned in 2022, and the other who had a history of poor performance in Washington D.C., repeatedly failed here in Harris County.

“The Legislature’s support for SB 1750 and SB 1933 is because Harris County is not too big to fail, but too big to ignore.

“The Legislature will next conference on SB 1933 providing oversight from the Texas Secretary of State as the need should arise in future.

“The public’s trust in elections in Harris County must be restored after a continuing set of problems culminating the fact that the current EA couldn’t or wouldn’t get millions of sheets ballot paper out of the warehouse to the polls for voters to vote on, and that’s real voter suppression! It can NOT be tolerated in the Nation’s 3rd Largest County.”

For more information on SB 1750 and to read the text of the bill, click here. To see more information on SB 1933 and to see the text of the bill, click here.

RELATED: Controversial bill passed by Texas senate would allow redo of Harris County elections if ballot paper runs out

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