Harris County in Texas is residence to Houston, and has tended to vote blue within the final decade. Republican state lawmakers not too long ago handed payments that focus on how elections are run there.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Texas, Republican lawmakers are shifting to alter the best way elections are run in a single county. Harris County is residence to Houston, the state’s most populous metropolis and a Democratic stronghold. A few payments now on the desk of Republican Governor Greg Abbott would give state officers extra energy over elections in Harris County. Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider has this report.
ANDREW SCHNEIDER, BYLINE: Harris County has struggled to conduct elections in recent times. Election Day 2022 was extra of the identical. Some polls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods opened hours late. Others skilled malfunctioning machines. After which there have been greater than two dozen polling websites in Republican-leaning neighborhoods that have been pressured to briefly shut down as a result of they ran out of paper ballots. Terry Wheeler was a Republican election choose in Cypress, northwest of Houston.
TERRY WHEELER: I completely consider it was on objective. I’ve by no means seen something like this, the best way that they blew us off over the telephone and refused to get us paper ballots.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats largely swept the 2022 elections in Harris County. Houston Public Media carried out a five-month investigation of the county’s administration of these elections. It revealed quite a few issues however no proof that the county had intentionally undersupplied Republican polling websites, nor did it decide that the variety of individuals turned away at these websites would have considerably affected the end result of most contests. Nonetheless, Republicans on the state and county degree determined Harris County’s election system was damaged and wanted state intervention to repair it. State Senator Paul Bettencourt of Houston was the writer of two key election payments associated to his residence county.
PAUL BETTENCOURT: Senate Invoice 1750 principally returns elections in Harris County again to the elected officers, the county clerk and the tax assessor, prefer it was earlier than the institution of the now-defunct elections administrator workplace.
SCHNEIDER: Like many Republicans, Bettencourt holds the county’s appointed elections administrator, Clifford Tatum, accountable for the issues of Election Day 2022. He says the elected officers can be extra conscious of the voters. However then there’s SB 1933.
BETTENCOURT: That principally grants the secretary of state oversight beneath particular circumstances for Harris County elections if obligatory by means of a criticism course of established within the invoice.
SCHNEIDER: In different phrases, it will permit the state to override, even take away those self same elected officers. Each payments have been amended after being filed to focus on Harris County and Harris County alone. County Lawyer Christian Menefee, a Democrat, stated in an outside press convention that the 2 payments set a harmful precedent in one in all Texas’ most various counties.
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CHRISTIAN MENEFEE: Now we have loads of elected officers, lots of people who have been voted into workplace to serve their neighborhood. But these payments goal three Black elected officers in Harris County – the elections administrator, the county clerk and the tax assessor collector.
SCHNEIDER: Menefee stated these payments received’t go unchallenged.
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MENEFEE: We’re suing the state of Texas to guard Harris County, to guard Harris County residents, to guard our public officers and to cease the state from focusing on us.
SCHNEIDER: The present elections administrator has taken steps to alleviate the issues which have plagued the county, however his job goes away, forcing the county clerk to scramble to supervise November’s basic election, when Houstonians will select a brand new mayor. For NPR Information, I’m Andrew Schneider in Houston.
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