Texas Senate Passes Bill Encouraging Partisan Election Challenges

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The Texas Senate just approved SB 97 after an extraordinarily rushed consideration of the bill. It now goes to the House for consideration.

The legislation, first filed on Tuesday, would create a process for partisan challenges of 2020 election results. It would also create a mechanism for partisan challenges in future elections. 

Under current Texas law, election results are already verified by post-election audits, and there are a variety of other safeguards to ensure voters can trust the election outcome.

The Senate’s bill would require counties to bear all costs of investigations pursued under it, including any costs incurred by the Secretary of State. It would also allow the Secretary of State to impose daily fines on county clerks for actions or omissions the Secretary decides are “violations.”

The bill would also authorize county-level party officials to request a “review of election results” for the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election in Texas, receiving 52.1% of the vote.

A recent poll found that 90% of Texans believe state lawmakers should take steps to protect their elections from partisan interference. The bill passed by the Senate today would instead inject more partisanship and chaos.

Statement of Common Cause Texas Associate Director Stephanie Gómez

I must have missed the memo — when did county clerks become enemies of the Texas Legislature?

SB 97 would create chaos in clerks’ offices by encouraging partisan challenges to election results, likely at the same time that clerks are performing the post-election audits already required by state law. 

This bill would require counties to foot the entire bill for these partisan challenges, including the Secretary of State’s expenses whenever the partisan challengers don’t like the counties’ answers.

And the bill would allow county clerks to be fined by the Secretary of State — potentially $500 a day per ‘violation’ as decided by the Secretary — without any mechanism for review or appeal of the Secretary’s decision.

Our county clerks are public servants — they are not enemies of our democracy.  This bill thoroughly disrespects the work that county clerks perform every election and weaponizes our elections for partisan aims.

This is partisan grandstanding at the expense of taxpayers. Common Cause Texas strongly urges the House to vote no on this dangerous legislation and instead focus on preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 55,000 of our fellow Texans and has more than 13,000 in the hospital fighting for their lives.