Texas Legislature averts $100 million consequences of law requiring nonexistent election technology | Natalia Contreras/Votebeat Texas

Texas lawmakers have passed a bill reversing a costly state law that required election officials to replace their existing vote-counting equipment with non-existent technology. The 2021 mandate, initially aimed at preventing vote data tampering, would have forced counties to purchase new equipment worth over $100 million. The newly approved bill allows counties to continue using their current equipment, addressing concerns raised by election officials and experts. The legislative session presented the best opportunity to amend the law before it took effect for the 2026 elections. The corrective legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Bryan Hughes, received unanimous approval from both chambers and will go into effect on September 1, relieving election administrators who had raised the alarm about the costly requirement. The law, based on a misunderstanding of its scope, would have necessitated the replacement of equipment each election at a significant expense. Read Article

Texas: Harris County to sue over GOP-backed bills targeting local elections | Jen Rice/Houston Chronicle

Harris County, Texas plans to file a lawsuit challenging two election bills, both of which are targeted specifically at the county. One bill eliminates the elections administrator office, while the other increases state oversight and grants the Secretary of State the authority to observe activities in the county’s election office. County Attorney Christian Menefee argues that the bills violate the Texas Constitution, which prohibits legislation targeting specific cities or counties. The bills were initially written to apply more broadly but were later narrowed to only affect Harris County. Menefee intends to file the lawsuit after the bills are signed into law by the governor. Read Article

Texas Legislature could take rare step to eliminate Harris County’s elections administrator position | Jen Rice/Houston Chronicle

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that could eliminate the position of Harris County elections administrator, which would be an unprecedented move to remove a local official without the county’s consent. The bill, authored by state Senator Paul Bettencourt, has already passed the Senate and a House committee. If signed into law, the responsibilities of overseeing elections in Harris County would revert back to the county clerk and tax assessor-collector, who previously handled the task. While the bill is specific to Harris County, its passage could set a precedent for similar actions targeting officials in other counties. The move has raised concerns about the state’s interference in local government and the potential erosion of voter accountability. The bill is part of a broader effort by the Texas Legislature to restrict the powers of local governments, including measures that limit the ability to pass local ordinances. Read Article

Texas: Eliminating countywide voting would make the process harder on voters, cost more money, election leaders say | Pooja Salhotra/The Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate vote centers, which allow any registered voter to vote at any polling location in the county on Election Day, and instead require residents to vote at an assigned precinct in their neighborhood. The bill, SB 990, has passed the state Senate and is now being reviewed by the House Elections Committee. Supporters of the bill argue that it would ensure accurate vote counts and prevent multiple voting, although no evidence has been provided to support these claims. Critics, including voting rights advocates and local government officials, argue that vote centers are popular and that eliminating them would create logistical and financial burdens for election offices. Read Article

Texas Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions Aimed at Houston | J. David Goodman/The New York Times

The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature is targeting Harris County, an emerging Democratic stronghold, with a series of election bills aimed at exerting more control over voting in the county. The 2022 races for local judges and county leaders were fiercely contested, as Republicans sought to capitalize on crime concerns and make inroads in the state’s largest urban area. However, they were unsuccessful, leading to efforts by Republicans to pass new election laws that include limits on polling places, felony penalties for illegal voting, and a mechanism for ordering new elections in certain circumstances. Republicans view Harris County as a crucial battleground and are determined to prevent it from becoming another heavily Democratic urban center. Read Article

Texas Republicans want power to overturn Harris County elections over mishaps at the polls | Jeremy Wallace/Houston Chronicle

The Texas Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to allow Gov. Greg Abbott precedent-setting power to overturn elections in Harris County, in order to punish local officials for running out of ballot paper at some polling sites last year. The legislation, which passed the Senate 19-12, would give Abbott’s appointed secretary of state the authority to order an entirely new election in Harris County if the county ever again runs out of paper at 2 percent or more of its polling sites for over an hour. “There is no reason, there is no excuse why we can’t competently run our elections and have adequate ballot paper,” said state Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, a co-author of the bill whose district includes part of southeast Harris County.  The measure provoked outrage from outnumbered Democrats in the Texas Senate who blasted Middleton for trying to give the governor new authority to toss election results as President Donald Trump sought to do after he lost in 2020.

Full Article: Texas Republicans seek to overturn Houston elections over poll mishaps

Texas: Software company withdrew lawsuit against Houston-based True the Vote | Jonathan Limehouse/Houston Chronicle

An election management software company withdrew a lawsuit last week that accused a Houston-based conservative nonprofit of making slanderous statements about the software company’s work during the 2020 election. The company reserved the right to refile the federal case at a later date. The suit had a brief and tumultuous history on the Houston docket. In late October, True the Vote leaders testified that they had learned concerning information about the software company from FBI agents. The federal judge pressed the conservative leaders to disclose more of the details of their accusations. He then held the founder and a contractor for the conservative group in contempt and ordered them to serve time in jail. Then in February, the federal judge recused himself. On April 19, Konnech Inc., a Michigan-based company specializing in election logistic software, asked the newly assigned judge to dismiss the case “without prejudice” against True the Vote. The company is also withdrawing its case against Catherine Engelbrecht, the organization’s founder, and contractor Gregg Phillips, according to court documents. The Sept. 12 suit came in response to Engelbrecht’s and Phillips’ accusation that Konnech had allowed the Chinese government to access a server in China that held the personal information —  including Social Security numbers, phone numbers, bank account numbers and addresses — of nearly 2 million U.S. election workers. True the Vote’s “unique brand of racism and xenophobia” had defamed Konnech and its founder, Eugene Yu, the lawsuit said.

Full Article: Software company withdrew lawsuit against Houston-based True the Vote

Texas Senate OKs end to countywide voting on Election Day | Pooja Salhotra and James Barragan/The Texas Tribune

Countywide polling locations on Election Day would be banned in Texas under a bill approved by the Texas Senate on Thursday. Senate Bill 990, authored by Republican Sen. Bob Hall of Edgewood, passed 17-12 along party lines. The bill — if approved by the state House — would eliminate countywide voting centers on Election Day and require residents to vote at an assigned precinct, typically in their neighborhood. Larger voting centers would be permitted through early voting. Currently, 90 counties — including large metro counties like Harris and Dallas as well as rural ones — are approved by the secretary of state’s office to use countywide voting centers on Election Day. Hall has framed the bill as necessary to address potential issues with vote counts, but Democrats who opposed the bill pressed him for any evidence that countywide polling had led to people voting at more than one location. Hall said on Thursday that spreading voting locations across a precinct makes it “impossible” to ensure an accurate count and that limiting voters to a central polling location would simplify the tally. There has been no evidence of systematic voter fraud in Texas. And each county that has been approved to use countywide voting policies must pass audits by the secretary of state’s office during two election cycles to keep the practice in place. Officials with the secretary of state’s election division have said the program — which began in rural counties — is popular among voters because it allows them to vote anywhere in the county. That is especially helpful in some of the state’s largest and most sprawling counties like Harris and Bexar, where Texans have long commutes from work to home and could possibly miss their window to vote if they don’t make it to their neighborhood precinct on time after work. Election officials also like the convenience the program provides to voters because they don’t have to scramble to figure out where to vote on Election Day.

Full Article: Texas Senate OKs end to countywide voting on Election Day | The Texas Tribune

Another Texas Election Official Quits After Threats From Trump Supporters | Neil Vigdor/The New York Times

Heider Garcia, the head of elections in Tarrant County, Texas, announced this week that he would resign after facing death threats, joining other beleaguered election officials across the nation who have quit under similar circumstances. Mr. Garcia oversees elections in a county where, in 2020, Donald J. Trump became only the second Republican presidential candidate to lose in more than 50 years. Right-wing skepticism of the election results fueled threats against him, even though the county received acclaim from state auditors for its handling of the 2020 voting. With Mr. Trump persistently repeating the lie that he won the 2020 election, many of his supporters and those in right-wing media have latched on to conspiracy theories and joined him in spreading disinformation about election security. Those tasked with running elections, even in deeply Republican areas that did vote for Mr. Trump in 2020, have borne the brunt of vitriol and threats from people persuaded by baseless claims of fraud.

Full Article: Another Texas Election Official Quits After Threats From Trump Supporters – The New York Times

Texas lawmakers take first steps to reverse course on costly requirement for election technology that doesn’t exist | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers are trying to undo an expensive election problem they didn’t realize they had created in the first place. In 2021, they passed a law that is set to require counties to purchase vote-counting equipment that does not yet exist and that would cost taxpayers more than $100 million. The measure, when it was proposed, went unnoticed and passed on a voice vote without debate. After Votebeat reported in February on the unprecedented problem with the law and election officials’ deep concerns, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Republican, and other lawmakers filed legislation to ease the conundrum the measure had forced on Texas counties, which would be prohibited from using their current vote-counting equipment and required to purchase new equipment each election. Hughes said during a committee hearing last month that there had been a “misunderstanding on the scope” of the provision. Hughes’ new proposal, Senate Bill 1661, would amend the language of that law to allow counties to continue to use the voting equipment they have without any additional costs to counties or taxpayers. “When this became law, the hope was that it would get fixed this session, and we’re glad to see it’s getting addressed,” said Chris Davis, the Williamson County elections administrator. “We’re glad [lawmakers] recognize their mistake.”

Full Article: Texas lawmakers walk back election voting equipment requirement | The Texas Tribune

Texas GOP wants out of national program that targets voter fraud | Cayla Harris/San Antonio Express-News

State lawmakers are taking steps to pull Texas out of a multistate partnership that helps prevent voter fraud and encourages unregistered citizens to sign up to vote. Officials have hinted at the state’s impending exit from the Electronic Registration Information Center for months, and senators heard testimony on a bill last week that would clear the way for Texas to leave the program. The initiative launched in 2012 and had more than 30 member states at its peak, helping local governments identify voters who moved, died or had duplicate registrations. Texas Republicans say they want to replace ERIC with their own program, but it’s unclear how long it would take to develop and how many states would join. “Many Texans and folks across the country — but in particular, Texans — are concerned about the security of voter information flowing to this national organization, also about the high cost associated with it,” said state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, as he introduced Senate Bill 1070 last week.

Full Article: Texas GOP wants out of national program that targets voter fraud

Texas may be about to scrap a voting security system it can’t replace | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

With some Texas Republicans pushing the state to abandon one its best tools for preventing voter fraud — a coalition of states that share voting roll data to weed out duplicate and suspicious registrations — the secretary of state’s office is trying to discern if it can build a replacement. But the effort could easily stall or take years, experts say. Similar efforts in other states over the past two decades have not worked, or have been shut down, because they lacked bipartisan support from multiple states and access to the kind of national data that produces accurate cross-state voter list matching — all of which the Electronic Information Registration Center, or ERIC,spent years developing. The push to have Texas become the latest state to withdraw from ERIC, a long-standing effort by nearly 30 states, is rooted in a yearlong misinformation campaign that spread through right-wing media platforms and advocacy groups.

Full Article: Texas may be about to scrap a voting security system it can’t replace | The Texas Tribune

Texas Senate passes bill to make illegal voting a felony again | Pooja Salhotra/The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave final approval, on a 19–12 vote, to legislation that would raise the penalty for voting illegally from a misdemeanor to a felony, a priority for Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other conservative lawmakers who have worked to remake the state’s voting laws since the 2020 election, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas. Senate Bill 2 heads next to the lower chamber for consideration. If the bill becomes law, a person found guilty of the crime could face up to 20 years in prison and more than $10,000 in fines. The initial debate on the floor Monday between Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, the bill’s author, focused heavily on what constitutes illegal voting. Lawmakers disagreed over whether, under the bill, a person who mistakenly votes illegally could be prosecuted. Democrats pointed to examples such as a person who knows they have been convicted of a felony but doesn’t realize that makes them ineligible to vote or a person who knows they are not a U.S. citizen but does not know that makes them ineligible.

Full Article: Texas Senate gives OK to make illegal voting a felony | The Texas Tribune

Texas Lawmakers Seek to Replace ‘Elections Administrators’ with Elected Officials in Large Counties | Holly Hansen/The Texan

In the past few years, election missteps in Harris County have repeatedly drawn national media attention, lawsuits, election contests, and a criminal investigation. This year, state lawmakers are considering a slew of legislative fixes to improve large county management of elections. In the latest proposal, Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) are demanding that counties with a population of more than one million return elections management to elected officials they say will be more accountable to the public. “Voters should have confidence in their elections, and when they see Harris County Elections Administrators botch election after election in 2022 that confidence is shaken,” said Bettencourt, who previously served as the Harris County tax assessor-collector & voter registrar. Among large Texas counties, Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, and Collin have appointed election administrators to manage elections. About half Texas’ 254 counties employ elections administrators, while the others give responsibility to elected officials such as the county clerk.

Full Article: Texas Lawmakers Seek to Replace ‘Elections Administrators’ with Elected Officials in Large Counties | The Texan

Texas: Conspiracy theory whirlwind threatens to blow state out of national program that keeps voter rolls updated | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

In virtual meetings taking place over a year, right-wing activists and Republican legislators have stoked concern over a multistate coalition that Texas and more than 30 other states use to help clean voter rolls. The majority of their grievances — that it is run by left-wing voter registration activists and funded by billionaire George Soros, among other things — were pulled straight from a far-right conspiracy website and are baseless. Now, lawmakers who regularly attend those meetings have introduced legislation written by the group that would end Texas’s participation in the coalition: the Electronic Registration Information Center, also known as ERIC. The bills were introduced despite the efforts of Texas’ elections director, who attended a meeting and offered factual information related to their concerns last April, apparently without success. Keith Ingram, the elections director for the secretary of state’s office, told the group that the program was the only option available to ensure voters aren’t registered or voting in more than one state at the same time. Nonetheless, the activists moved forward with an effort that experts say is set to undermine one of the best election integrity tools available to Texas and other states to prevent election fraud.

Full Article: Right-wing activists want Texas to quit ERIC, a program that updates voter rolls | The Texas Tribune

Texas bill would allow the state to replace local elections administrators | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

House and Senate bills filed by Republican lawmakers in response to Harris County’s mismanagement of its recent elections could give the Texas secretary of state the authority to step in, suspend county election administrators when a complaint is filed and appoint a replacement administrator. Election administration experts told Votebeat the legislation was an overreaction to the desire to hold Harris County accountable for years of election mismanagement, and would disrupt the state’s ability to help county election offices improve and address systemic problems. If passed, the secretary of state’s office would change from being a guide and resource for election workers to being an auditor that can investigate and fire them. Some election officials are concerned this change could prevent local election workers from asking questions or seeking help from the office for fear of being reprimanded. “Currently we work hand-in-hand. [The secretary of state’s staff] are our No. 1 resource, and that benefits all voters,” said Jennifer Doinoff, Hays County elections administrator. “Putting them in the position of oversight would definitely change the dynamic.”

Full Article: Texas bill would allow the state to replace local elections administrators | The Texas Tribune

Texas bill would make illegal voting a felony again, even if someone doesn’t know they’re ineligible to vote | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

Republican leaders in the Texas Senate are intent on raising the penalty for voting illegally from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas. The effort comes nearly two years after the Legislature passed a sweeping voting bill, Senate Bill 1, that lowered the penalties for such crimes to a misdemeanor — and then almost immediately began discussing raising them back. Senate Bill 2, filed Tuesday by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would also change the standard for determining someone’s intent for illegal voting, according to policy experts. The law as enacted under SB 1 says a person commits a crime if they “knowingly or intentionally” vote or attempt to vote in an election in which the person “knows they’re not eligible” to vote. Hughes’ new bill changes that language so that anyone who votes or attempts to vote in an election in which “the person knows of a particular circumstance that makes the person not eligible to vote” could face charges. That means that rather than having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the voter knew they were casting their ballot unlawfully, prosecutors would only need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the voter knew of the circumstance that made them ineligible to vote, said James Slattery, senior supervising legislative attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Full Article: Texas Senate revives effort to make illegal voting a felony | The Texas Tribune

Texas: Unrecoverable Election Screwup in Williamson County | Andrew Appel/Freedom to Tinker

In the November 2020 election in Williamson County, Texas, flawed e-pollbook software resulted in voters inadvertently voting for candidates and questions not from their own districts but from others in the same county.  These voters were deprived of the opportunity to vote for candidates they were entitled to vote for—and their votes were wrongly counted in elections that they shouldn’t have voted in.  This wasn’t the voters’ fault, but it does mean that the results in elections for local offices were affected by this screwup by Tenex Software Solutions.  Tenex’s e-pollbook malfunctions call into question the results of the 2020 school district races, municipal elections, potentially a county commissioners race, and state legislative races in Williamson County. As more and more states use e-pollbooks in vote centers, election administrators should understand this failure, because it could potentially affect any kind of e-pollbook that prints ballots on demand. I’ve written about other screwups caused by election software or hardware—in Antrim County MI, in Windham NH, in Mercer County NJ—but in all those cases, voters marked the paper ballots they were entitled to vote on, and election officials can and did recount those ballots to report accurate election results.  That is, all those screwups were recoverable, and election officials took immediate action to recount and recover—to get an accurate result.

Full Article: Unrecoverable Election Screwup in Williamson County TX – Freedom to Tinker

Texas: Overlooked provision of SB 1 requires election equipment that doesn’t exist, at a cost of $116 million | Natalia Contreras/Votebeat Texas

When state lawmakers passed a sweeping and controversial new election law in 2021, they quietly included a provision that drew little notice or debate. But election administration experts say the measure is unprecedented, it mandates the purchase of voting technology that doesn’t currently exist — and it’s on the verge of costing taxpayers more than $100 million. Sponsors of the provision said they aimed to prevent cheating in elections by prohibiting the use of modern technology to count votes and store cast ballot data. It passed without debate on a voice vote, and goes into effect just before the November 2026 general election. … Here’s how it works now: With permission from the Texas secretary of state, election officials use media storage devices such as USB flash drives — provided by state-certified voting machine vendors — to collect data from ballot scanners used at precincts and voting centers on Election Day. Those drives are how officials easily and safely take that data on cast ballots to a central counting station, where they’re inserted into a tabulating computer to quickly gather results. The equipment involved is expensive, and elections officials reuse it each time an election is held, writing over the previous data with the new election data. But the provision — proposed by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) and supported by the then-bill’s primary author, Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) — prohibits the use of this exact kind of data storage device that can be reused, including the ballot scanners and the tabulating machines. Experts say that, in order to fully comply with the new law, counties would have to buy entirely new voting systems each election cycle.

Full Article: SB 1 provision requires the use of voting equipment that doesn’t exist – Votebeat Texas – Nonpartisan local reporting on elections and voting

Texas: Dallas County Republicans question voting machines, lobby for paper ballots | Josephine Peterson/The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas County Republican Party says its top legislative priority this session is lobbying for the return of the paper ballot. Local Republicans say that the electronic voting system currently being used may have counted more votes than were actually cast in the 2022 election, despite the Dallas County Elections Department’s saying that is not the case. The GOP points to those votes that rolled in after polls closed and to 188 “phantom voter” errors the state found in the 2020 election as proof that the county’s electronic voting system can’t be trusted. “Any voting equipment or election process that is not fully transparent and trustworthy simply has to go,” the local party said in a Jan. 20 blog post laying out their position. Dallas County Republican Party Chair Jennifer Stoddard-Hajdu told The Dallas Morning News that she is concerned about voting machines in local elections that are connected to a server through Wi-Fi, pointing to a surge in tallied votes that occurred after the polls closed during the last election. She also cited a state audit that reported the “phantom voter” incidents. “I’m not saying that there was any fraud or that the election was stolen or votes were ma that she is concerned about voting machines in local elections that are connected to a server through Wi-Fi, pointing to a surge in tallied voters that occurred after the polls closed during the last election. She also cited a state audit that reported the “phantom voter” incidents. The state, county, the voting machine company, and Dallas County Democratic Party have approved or defended Dallas’ current voting system.

Full Article: Dallas County Republicans Want Switch to Paper Ballots

Texas: Republicans have already filed dozens of bills to restrict voting in 2023 | Kira Lerner/The Guardian

Republican lawmakers across the country have already filed dozens of bills that would restrict voting, including proposals in Texas that would increase criminal penalties on people who violate voting laws and enact a new law enforcement unit to prosecute election crimes. The 2023 legislative session comes in the wake of an election that was described by many voting rights advocates as a triumph of democracy, despite the restrictive voting laws that were in place in 20 states for the first time last year. Before this session, at least 26 states enacted, expanded or increased the severity of 120 election-related criminal penalties. This year, Republican-controlled legislatures plan to continue pressing for laws that they say would help prevent widespread voter fraud, a problem that voting advocates say does not exist but nonetheless continues to be alleged by Donald Trump and his allies. Several pre-filed bills would further criminalize voters and election officials, a trend that has been occurring across the US in the past few years.

Source: Republicans have already filed dozens of bills to restrict voting in 2023 | US voting rights | The Guardian

Texas senators draw lots to determine how long their terms will be | James Barragan/The Texas Tribune

It was the luck of the draw for Texas senators on Wednesday as they drew lots to decide which half of them would get two-year terms and which would get four-year terms. The practice is outlined in Article 3, Section 3, of the Texas Constitution, which calls for “Senators elected after each apportionment [redistricting]” to be divided into two classes: one that will serve a four-year term and the other to serve a two-year term. That keeps Senate district elections staggered every two years. After that, senators serve four-year terms for the rest of the decade. On Wednesday, each of the chamber’s 31 lawmakers walked to the front of the chamber and drew lots by picking an envelope that held a pill-shaped capsule. Inside the capsules were numbers: Even numbers meant two-year terms, and odd were for four-year terms.

Full Article: Texas senators draw lots to determine how long their terms will be | The Texas Tribune

Texas Republicans pushing for creation of election police | Michael Murney Michael Murney/Houston Chronicle

Texas Republicans are prefiling bills aimed at creating an election police force similar to a unit deployed in Florida during the 2022 midterm elections, NBC News reported Tuesday. The push for increased law enforcement involvement in Texas elections comes as GOP lawmakers are casting doubt on the outcome of Harris County’s election results and District Attorney Kim Ogg probes for alleged criminal activity following issues with paper ballot availability and adjusted polling hours. Harris County leaders have defended the election’s integrity, claiming GOP scrutiny of the county’s procedures is part of a conservative effort to undermine election outcomes since the county first went blue in 2018. Bills such as SB 220 aim to create a team of “election marshals” that would probe alleged criminal violations of Texas election laws and allow for the filing of criminal charges in certain cases. Houston-area state senator Paul Bettencourt, who wrote SB 220, told NBC News that the proposed legislation is specifically designed to address the issues that arose in Harris County during midterm voting.

Full Article: Texas Republicans pushing for creation of election police

Texas: Election Day Problems Inflame Voter Fraud Conspiracies in Houston | Michael Barajas/Bolts

Some of the most notorious election deniers in Texas rallied outside the Harris County government building in downtown Houston Tuesday, while dozens of angry people waited inside for their turn at the mic to chastise county commissioners and local election officials. Among the shouting and calls for order during the meeting, one woman issued a biblical denunciation, pulling from the Book of Ezekiel: “The rulers will be helpless and in despair, trembling in fear… I will bring on them the evil they have done to others and they will receive the punishment they so richly deserve.” Another woman was even more cryptic. “You guys have been caught, you just don’t know it,” she said without elaboration. “You have no idea what’s coming your way.” At issue were the problems that voters experienced in Texas’s largest county last week. At least one polling place opened late, and some ran out of ballot paper. It remains unclear how widespread the problems were, but the Houston Chronicle reported that roughly three percent of the county’s 782 polling places experienced ballot paper shortages last week. Those problems followed others that occurred during the March primaries and ultimately forced the resignation of Harris County’s previous elections administrator and fueled baseless conservative conspiracies about voter fraud. Last week’s Election Day glitches have further inflamed bogus claims of stolen elections while also exacerbating an ongoing feud between state GOP leaders and Texas’ largest and increasingly left-leaning county.

Source: Election Day Problems Inflame Voter Fraud Conspiracies in Houston | Bolts

Texas elections official keeps the peace with right-wing voting activists | Natalia Contreras/The Texas Tribune

Aubree Campbell, 33, a poll watcher from Tarrant County, is, by now, pretty well known among Texas election administrators. The redhead and self-described “metalhead” basically has many of them on speed dial. “Are your ballots prenumbered sequentially beginning with the number one according to the Texas election code 52.062 and 52.009? You’re sitting in violation of the state and national Constitution. Do you not know the code and the law off the top of your head like I do?” she asked one official, rapid-fire, in an audio recording she posted online in April. Her social media channels are full of posts and self-recorded videos documenting these often charged interactions, carefully monitored by a small but loyal following that reacts on every post. She volunteers in elections routinely, has trained dozens of other poll watchers and considers herself a knowledgeable watchdog of Texas elections administration. There’s a single elections administrator in Texas who, she says, “makes other election administrators look like idiots” — Heider Garcia, who oversees elections in her home county. It’s an interesting choice. Garcia, in fact, has received more rancor from voter fraud activists than most of the more than 200 people running elections across this state. They’ve accused him of contributing to voter fraud in other countries. Fringe activists groups shared his home address online, along with racist messages and death threats, making him fear for his life and the safety of his wife and small children.

Full Article: Texas elections official keeps the peace with right-wing voting activists | The Texas Tribune

Texas avoided election violence. Advocates say more protection is needed. | Robert Downen/The Texas Tribune

After two years of fears of electoral dysfunction and violence, voting rights advocates breathed bated sighs of relief this week as Texas finished a relatively calm midterm election cycle. “It was a little bit better than I thought, but I also had very low expectations,” said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of the voting rights group Common Cause Texas. “We were really concerned about violence at the polls, and most of that was pretty limited.” But he’s not celebrating. Citing thousands of voter complaints received throughout the midterm cycle, Common Cause and other voter advocacy groups want the Texas Legislature to bolster voter protection and education measures and revisit recently passed laws that empowered partisan poll watchers. The complaints ranged from long lines, malfunctioning machines and delayed poll site openings to harassment, intimidation, threats and misinformation. Common Cause received at least 3,000 such complaints on its tipline, Gutierrez said, and most of the harassment, misinformation and intimidation allegations came from voters of color, sparking fears that there were targeted efforts to quell election turnout in 2022 and future contests.

Full Article: Texas avoided election violence. Advocates say more protection is needed. | The Texas Tribune

Texas Civil Rights Project reports multiple instances of harassment and intimidation at the polls | David Martin Davies/Texas Public Radio

Reports of voter intimidation in Texas are unusually egregious this election, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project. The group is hearing from voters experiencing harassment at the polls. Christina Beeler, voting rights staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said there have also been multiple reports of intimidation during early voting across the state. “In Travis County, we received a very alarming report about a precinct chair of the Travis County Republican Party knocking on people’s doors, accusing them of illegally voting by mail even though the people we spoke with were clearly eligible to vote by mail,” she said. In Tarrant County, some voters are receiving letters saying there is a voter integrity investigation underway. “Those letters are very concerning,” she said. “These efforts seem to be motivated by right wing conspiracy theories around stolen elections.”

Full Article: Texas Civil Rights Project reports multiple instances of harassment and intimidation at the polls | TPR

Texas GOP push to monitor voting in Harris County spurs outcry | Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Amy Gardner/The Washington Post

With a week to go before Election Day, a showdown is emerging between state and local leaders here over how to protect the security of the vote without intimidating voters and election workers. The clash is playing out in Harris County, Texas’s largest jurisdiction and home to Houston, where state and local Republicans are deploying monitors to oversee the handling of ballots in the Democratic enclave. Local Democratic officials have said the move is an effort to intimidate voters — and asked the Justice Department to send federal observers in response. The result could be a partisan showdown, in which two different sets of monitors face off on Election Day in this giant metro region. That’s not including the thousands of partisan poll watchers who are expected to fan out at voting locations across Texas. GOP officials and conservative poll watchers say heightened scrutiny is necessary to prevent election fraud and mismanagement. Voting-rights advocates and local leaders, meanwhile, say the GOP is scaring voters and election workers alike — and undermining faith in the results for a county that Republicans are pushing hard to win control of on Nov. 8.

Full Article: GOP push to monitor Texas voting in Harris County spurs outcry – The Washington Post

No, Texas voting machines aren’t switching your votes | Maria Mendez/The Texas Tribune

Warnings to double-check early-voting ballots began spreading across social media this week as some Texas voters claimed that electronic voting machines had switched their votes from Democratic to Republican. But this isn’t a case of grand conspiracy, malfeasance or rigged machines. Instead, election officials, security experts and voting rights advocates say some of the touch-sensitive screens on voting machines can be tricky to use, much like miscues while trying to use a smartphone. Midland County Election Administrator Carolyn Graves likened the experience to texting with a small keypad. “If you don’t hit it just exactly right, you’re gonna hit one of the letters around it,” Graves said. “It’s essentially the same thing. If you don’t hit it with the tip of your finger or turn your finger to the side, then you could hit the other [choice].” … Midland County uses ExpressVote ballot-marking machines from the company Election Systems & Software, according to Verified Voting, a nonprofit advocacy group that tracks voting equipment across the United States. Election Systems & Software spokesperson Katina Granger said that “there is no evidence of any so-called vote switching by equipment.” “Please note that voters are always able to check their printed paper ballots for accuracy before casting,” Granger said in an email.

Full Article: Texas voting machines aren’t switching votes | The Texas Tribune

Texas Secretary of State denies any claims of ‘vote switching’ | Priscilla Aguirre/MySA

The Office of the Texas Secretary of the State denies any claims of “vote switching” at election machines in Texas. Sam Taylor, communications director for the Secretary of State, told MySA that no machines are switching votes after conversations on Twitter suggested so. On October 26, a Texan tweeted that there were several reports coming out about voting machines changing votes from Democrats to Republican candidates and said it’s being investigated. The tweet received more than 3,500 retweets and over 8,400 likes. Many in the comments mentioned how it occurred to them while they voted. Taylor said the “changing votes” speculation occurs every election cycle, such as in 2018 when some straight-ticket Texas voters reported that voting machines recorded them selecting the candidate of another party for the U.S. Senate. That problem occurred on the Hart eSlate voting machine – which only a few counties use now – when voters turn a selection dial and hit the “enter” button simultaneously, according to the state.  At the time, the state confirmed that the cases were all user errors or a result of voters not properly using the machines. This can be caused by the voter taking keyboard actions before a page has fully appeared on the eSlate, thereby de-selecting the pre-filled selection of that party’s candidate.

Full Article: Texas Secretary of State denies any claims of ‘vote switching’