Texas Supreme Court ruling allows election reform law to go into effect Sept. 1
(The Center Square) – The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Harris County’s request for emergency relief to block an election reform bill from going into effect Sept. 1.
This is after the Office of the Attorney General and the Harris County Attorney last week filed motions with the Texas Supreme Court to intervene in a lawsuit.
The OAG filed a Notice of Accelerated Interlocutory Appeal with the court, which stayed a lower court’s ruling blocking the law from going into effect. The appeal was filed under the authority of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 6.001(b) and Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 29.1(b). The OAG said because of its notice filed in the court, SB 1750 "is still scheduled to take effect September 1."
The high court also set a date for oral arguments in the case for Nov, 28, three weeks after the election scheduled for this fall, which includes voters choosing a new Houston mayor.
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said he was “disappointed that the Texas Supreme Court is quietly allowing the legislature to illegally target Harris County, instead of considering the arguments and timely deciding whether Senate Bill 1750 violates the constitution.” By referring to “quietly,” he said he only found out about the court’s ruling through the media, he said.
By allowing the law to go into effect, he said, “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.”
Menefee also said he would discuss the implications at the next Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting scheduled for Aug. 29.
Harris County sued in July over HB 1750, which state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, filed to address multiple election-related failures in Harris County and ensure the state's largest counties properly manage elections. The bill passed during the regular legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
In response to the court’s decisions, Bettencourt said, “Harris County must return elections back to the elected officials. … SB 1750 will go into effect on September 1st as the bill originally intended for an orderly transition.
“SB 1750 was drafted after serious election irregularities during the 2022 Harris County elections managed by the county appointed EA [elections administrator],” he continued. “During the Nov. 8 election the EA either couldn’t or wouldn’t get millions of paper ballot sheets out of the warehouse to the polls for voters to vote on. Additionally, during the 2022 primary election the first appointed EA ‘found’ 10,000 votes and released a statement at 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday night that led to her resignation.”
He also said the Harris County Commissioners Court and Menefee “wasted the better part of the summer not transitioning” the Harris County Elections Office after the bill passed in May. “They MUST follow the law and make election administration transfer back to the elected County Tax Assessor-Collector and County Clerk so the Nov. election can be run properly. This is about performance NOT politics.”
Harris County's lawsuit is one of nearly two dozen filed related to the November 2022 election. The lawsuits filed by Republican judicial candidates and Houstonians allege the Nov. 8, 2022, election was so poorly managed that "systematic and widespread violations of the Texas Election Code make the November 2022 election results unknowable."
The judicial candidates have asked the judge presiding over their cases to call a new election. The other lawsuits call on the county to provide transparency.
Harris County Democratic officials refute this argument and say that calling a new election would disenfranchise voters.