Texas Supreme Court ruling gives Republicans power to 'undermine' and 'steer elections their way': report

Texas Supreme Court ruling gives Republicans power to 'undermine' and 'steer elections their way': report

A Texas Republican-backed bill that would exterminate the county elections commissioner role in the Lonestar State's heavily Democratic Harris County — and the largest — will move forward after Texas Supreme Court smacked down the county's "request for emergency relief against" the legislation Tuesday, Chron reports.

When Senate Bill 1750 was approved by the state's GOP-controlled legislature and Republican Governor Greg Abbott earlier this year, State Representative Jarvis Johnson (D-Harris County) called the bill "an egregious, disgusting, despicable act" and "a power grab on behalf of Republicans to try to take over elections and certainly steer elections their way."

Chron reports:

Since the law was introduced, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee has criticized the measure as unconstitutional and exclusively targets the largest county in the state. The county filed for emergency relief last week after the state appealed a ruling by Travis County Judge Karin Crumps determining the measure to be 'unconstitutional.' Crump stated the law would cause chaos in the county elections office just a few months before city elections.

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Per Chron, under the new law, "eliminating the county's EA position only applies to counties with 3.5 million residents on Sept.1, 2023," and "When the law goes into effect in a few weeks it will only apply to Harris County."

Judge Crump wrote, "Not only will this transfer lead to inefficiencies, disorganization, confusion, office instability, and increased costs to Harris County, but it will also disrupt an election that the Harris County EA has been planning for months."

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis said, "Democracy in Harris County and the State of Texas took another blow today with the Texas Supreme Court ruling that allows the Legislature to target Harris County and exercise unprecedented control over our elections. Whether it's banning drive-thru voting in 2021 or abolishing the Harris County election administrator’s office, we are on the front lines of a coordinated attack from state leaders who are intent on subverting our elections because they fear our diverse and powerful electorate. Harris County voters can trust that we’re doing everything in our power to protect their right to vote in fair and free elections this November and beyond."

However, bill author and State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) argued in a statement Tuesday, "This bill has always been about performance, not politics. I commend the Texas Supreme Court on their decision to restore voter trust, accountability, and transparency in Harris County elections. Harris County wasted the better part of the summer on this frivolous lawsuit. They need to follow the law and make the transfer complete as of September 1st so that the election in November can be run properly."

READ MORE: Inside the 'egregious' Texas GOP 'power grab' Republicans nationwide are copying to usurp elections

Menefee disagrees.

"I am disappointed that the Texas Supreme Court is quietly allowing the legislature to illegally target Harris County, instead of considering the arguments and [making a timely decision as to] whether Senate Bill 1750 violates the constitution," the attorney said. "We first learned of today's decision from media, instead of from the court itself. From the start, Republican legislators pushed this law abolishing the Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office to undermine local elections and score political points on the backs of the good people who run them. By setting the law to go into effect September 1, and not passing a single law to assist in the transition or provide additional funding, Republican legislators are making the job of running this November's election much more difficult. It was on the Texas Supreme Court to rein in these bad-faith lawmakers. The court failed Harris County residents."

READ MORE: Texas GOP passes bills allowing Abbott appointee to take over Democratic county's elections

Chron's full report is available at this link.

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