Gov. Abbott discusses election integrity legislation in Houston, talks about election fraud bill

Judge Hidalgo, other local leaders respond calling the move voter suppression

HOUSTON – Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference Monday alongside State Sen. Paul Bettencourt and State Rep. Briscoe Cain to discuss legislative efforts on election integrity in Texas.

The press conference took place at 10:30 a.m. at Sen. Bettencourt’s District Office in Houston.

Officials discussed election fraud and how they want to prevent it. Abbott has mentioned a number of times, especially during the 2020 election, that election fraud is “very real” and happens in different ways. In response, Abbott unveiled plans for an election bill that is supposed to combat what he and other Republican lawmakers consider to be an issue.

Abbott did, however, say that former President Barack Obama prosecuted a voter fraud scheme in South Texas where cocaine was used to pay voter harvesters.

“It doesn’t matter what party you’re in, it doesn’t matter your party affiliation,” Abbott said. “Election fraud is unacceptable.”

A small group carrying signs protested against Senate Bill 7 outside Bettencourt’s office, calling the proposed bill voter suppression.

“One of the reasons we had such great voter turnout in 2020 is because at the local level we made voting easier,” said Lee Bar-Lei, one of the protesters.

During the 2020 election, Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins expressed outrage at Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that limited the number of places voters can drop-off their mail-in ballots to one per county. According to the order, mail ballots could be dropped off in-person at only one place that was designated by each county’s early-voting clerk. For Harris County, that was NRG Arena.

Hollins responded to the order saying, “to force hundreds of thousands of seniors and voters with disabilities to use a single drop-off location in a county that stretches over nearly 2,000 square miles is prejudicial and dangerous.”

The new order would reduce Harris County Drop off locations from 12 to one, a move that Hollins called “haphazard.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement on the decision that was in agreement with Hollins’ and Hidalgo’s sentiment.

“We should be focused on making voting more accessible and stop trying to create obstacles and distractions with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” Turner said.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo responded to the proposed legislative efforts during her own news conference Monday morning.

Hidalgo said the legislation is designed to disenfranchise voters and it would “adversely affect several voting methods, such as drive-thru voting and limit early voting hours, that have contributed to recent record-high voter participation.”

Harris County had a historic turnout and the legislation is a direct response to the turnout seen during the last election, and Hidalgo said that if the election had gone differently, local officials would likely not be proposing this legislation.

Hidalgo said, the legislation “weaponizes our election system against our own voters.”

According to Hidalgo, the legislation would not allow local officials to send applications for mail-in ballots, is would stop 24-hour voting and other extended hours, and would ban drive-thru voting.

A lawsuit was filed against Abbott, calling the order an “unconstitutional burden” on the right to vote that would disproportionately impact voters of color throughout the state.

You can watch a replay of Abbott’s news conference below. A replay of Hidalgo’s news conference will be added below soon.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and lawmakers discuss proposed legislation that would be applied to elections.

About the Authors:

Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli has been a digital news editor at KPRC 2 since 2018. She is a published poet and has background in creative writing and journalism. Daniela has covered events like Hurricane Harvey and the Astros World Series win. In her spare time, Daniela is an avid reader and loves to spend time with her two miniature dachshunds.