A Texas Democrat Party official is now in charge of administering elections in Texas’ most populous county.
On Tuesday, Harris County appointed Chris Hollins, a personal injury attorney and vice chair of finance for the Texas Democrats, as county clerk—the county’s chief election official.
In addition to qualms about his official party connections, residents have raised questions about potential conflicts of interest involving lucrative contracts Hollins has with the county.
Hollins steps into the position June 1, just weeks before early voting in the July 14 primary runoff begins on June 29, and with little time to learn the ropes before November’s high-turnout presidential contest. Harris is home to over 2.2 million registered voters.
Hollins takes over from Diane Trautman, who announced May 9 she was resigning after less than 18 months in office, citing “personal health concerns.”
Trautman was named in a legal action brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to compel her and other Democrat county election officials to stop misleading voters about who is eligible to vote by mail.
Texas Democrats filed lawsuits in state and federal courts, exploiting the coronavirus crisis to force universal vote-by-mail in upcoming elections. Liberal judges sided with Democrats, but their orders are not in effect pending appeals.
Yet Trautman and others still said voters who fear contracting the coronavirus at the polls could claim a “disability” and apply for a mail-in ballot.
Harris County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 on party lines to appoint Hollins, who will serve until a replacement is elected in November. Each county party will select a candidate for the special election. Hollins pledged he won’t run for the office, focusing instead on managing the election.
Some worry he’s not up to the task.
“I’m concerned that his experience to date has not prepared him for the very complex job of county clerk in the largest county in Texas,” said Alan Vera, head of the Harris County Republican Party’s Ballot Security Committee.
Vera coordinated with Trautman’s team on behalf of the HCRP during multiple elections, each rife with mistakes.
“[Hollis’] initial comments did not remotely address improving the quality of the election process,” Vera told Texas Scorecard. “That’s what’s badly needed in Harris County right now.”