Texas Secretary of State begins elections audit of four counties ... why now?

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Late Thursday, the office of the Texas Secretary of State announced that a full forensic audit of the 2020 general election results has begun in the largest four counties in the state. Two counties are Republican and two are Democrat. The question is why now and, frankly, why is it happening at all?

Ed wrote today about the results of the ballot review of the 2020 election in Arizona. The process is ending after a long six months and it shows that Biden won the state by a little larger amount of votes than originally recorded. As it turns out, a lot of time and taxpayer money was spent. Texas, however, was not a state that had election results that came into question on election night. Why the sudden interest in an audit now? No one is offering up justification other than a letter that Trump sent to Governor Abbott asking for an audit. That’s right – Trump won Texas but Trump is asking for an audit. He requested that Abbott include an election audit bill to the state legislature’s third special session’s call. The special session began Monday. Only the governor sets the agenda items for special sessions.

Trump called for the passage of House Bill 16, authored by Rep. Steve Toth, R- The Woodlands, and Rep. Terry Wilson, R-Marble Falls. The bill creates a process for the audit of suspected irregularities in future elections, allowing candidates, party chairs, presiding judges and certain political committees to request a review.

The bill as filed allows for an audit of 2020 general election results for state and county offices. According to the bill, if there are more than five races identified in a request for review, a county clerk would be tasked with randomly selecting five races. One of those races must be the race for president and vice president, a federal office, a statewide office, a state senate or a state representative.

A similar piece of legislation passed the Senate during a previous special session but wasn’t considered in the House. Toth wrote on Twitter on Thursday he is “thankful to have President Trump’s support for HB 16 calling for an audit of the 2020 election.”

While Trump wrote in the letter that the bill specifically addresses the 2020 presidential election, it does not. Rep. Toth said that he and State Senator Bettencourt are working on a substitute bill that would include the presidential race as well as other election results. The current bill, the one Trump referred to, is a placeholder. It is meant to look at where voter irregularities may occur, not on specific election results, either federal or state elections. The concern is over possible voter fraud where people who shouldn’t have been eligible to vote did vote, he explained.

So did Trump’s request to Abbott put the forensic audit in motion in Collin, Dallas, Harris, and Tarrant counties? We don’t know because no one is answering the question. Trump wrote, “Governor Abbott, we need a ‘Forensic Audit of the 2020 Election’ added to the call. Texans know voting fraud occurred in some of their counties. Let’s get to the bottom of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!” Frankly, this is the first I am hearing about concerns over election fraud in “some counties”. There have been individual cases investigated and some prosecuted, as has happened in past elections, but nothing widespread and certainly nothing that would change the election results. The whole point of the election integrity reform bill passed and signed into law from the last special session was to end the rogue practices put into place by the Harris County Clerk during the 2020 election cycle that was out of sync with the rest of the counties in Texas. Uniform election law for all counties in the state was re-established. There is no “2020 Presidential Election Scam” in Texas.

An August poll by the Texas Politics Project at The University of Texas at Austin found 74% of voters polled think Texas election results are somewhat or very accurate, compared to 19% who believe they’re somewhat or very inaccurate. Of Republicans polled, 67% believed they were somewhat or very accurate.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued four battleground states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – which delivered the election to Biden. That lawsuit was not successful. Paxton was present at the Trump rally that preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Since then, the House committee investigating the riot that day has specifically requested Paxton’s communications, his texts and emails, to media outlets. There is an interesting twist to the audit story, too – at the present time, Texas does not have a secretary of state in place.

It was unclear if Trump’s request spurred the announcement from the secretary of state’s office. Texas does not currently have a secretary of state. Former Secretary of State Ruth Ruggero Hughs, who oversaw the 2020 elections, resigned when the Texas Senate refused to confirm her appointment. Abbott has not yet picked a replacement. A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to a question about the audits late Thursday.

Tarrant County is a Republican stronghold, but Biden narrowly beat Trump there in 2020. Trump won Texas 52.1% to Biden’s 46.5%. Biden won both Dallas and Harris (Houston) County, both of which have a majority of Democrat voters and elected officials. Trump’s victory in Texas in 2020 was by the smallest margin by a GOP presidential candidate in decades. Earlier this year, the elections administrator in the secretary of state’s office declared the 2020 elections in Texas were “safe and secure.”

Governor Abbott is running for re-election in 2022. Trump still carries sway with Republican voters in Texas so maybe Trump’s letter is the push Abbott needed to include funding an audit on the agenda of the current special session. I can’t help but think this is just an unnecessary waste of time and taxpayer money, and it makes no sense. Trump won Texas. Does he think an audit will show a greater victory? There is no reason to believe that. Hopefully, this doesn’t backfire on Abbott.

State Rep. Chris Turner, the leader of the Texas fleebaggers, responded to the announcement on Twitter late Thursday.

“Let me be the first to congratulate the disgraced former president, Donald Trump, on his apparently becoming the new governor of Texas,” Turner tweeted. “Pitiful yet predictable that @GregAbbott_TX has capitulated to Trump yet again.”