(The Hill) – Texas lawmakers advanced a bill this week that would allow the secretary of state, who is handpicked by the governor, to overturn the results of an election in the state’s largest county and order a new one.
The bill targets Harris County, the largest in the state and the third-largest in the U.S., which includes Houston and has a population of around 4.7 million. It would allow the secretary of state, currently Republican Jane Nelson, to order a new election in the county if 2 percent or more of the polling locations ran out of ballot paper for more than an hour.
Written to apply to counties with a population over 2.7 million — which only applies to Harris County in the state — the bill follows criticism by Republican lawmakers over polling issues in the county in the 2022 midterm elections. It passed the state Senate on Tuesday, and now must be considered in the House.
Democratic-leaning Harris County faced a number of difficulties in the midterm elections, including technical and staffing issues. A Houston Chronicle investigation found that 20 polling locations ran out of paper, and just over half of the affected polling locations were in Republican-leaning areas. It concluded that it was not possible to know how many people were unable to vote due to the issues.
Democrats edged out a closely watched contest for Harris County judge, the highest position in the county, in November. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (D) defeated Alexandra del Moral Mealer (R) by less than 20,000 votes after the GOP spent heavily to unseat Hidalgo.
Following the elections, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called for an investigation into the issues in the county. The voting issues are now the subject of a lawsuit in the state.
–Updated at 11:19 a.m.