Harris County has dropped its challenge to a new Texas law that returned election administration duties to elected officials in the state’s most populous county.

Senate Bill 1750, which took effect on September 1, abolished the appointed position of elections administrator in any county with a population of more than 3.5 million and transferred election administration and voter registration duties back to the county’s elected county clerk and tax assessor-collector.

Only Harris County currently fits the law’s population requirement.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee filed a lawsuit in July claiming that SB 1750 violated the Texas constitution by specifically targeting the county.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), who authored the measure, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “a waste of taxpayer money.”

Bettencourt said SB 1750 was a response to recent “election fiascos” managed by county appointees.

The first fiasco in Harris County involved Interim County Clerk Chris Hollins, a Texas Democrat Party official appointed in May 2020 to oversee the November 2020 election after the elected county clerk resigned. A state audit found “very serious issues” in Hollins’ management of Harris County’s 2020 general election.

Democrat County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the county’s two Democrat commissioners then decided to change to an appointed elections administrator.

Harris County’s first elections administrator, Isabel Longoria, was forced to resign following the March 2022 primary, which some called the “worst election fiasco in Texas history.”

County officials then hired Clifford Tatum, who botched the November 2022 election so badly it became the subject of a criminal investigation and multiple lawsuits and inspired legislation including SB 1750.

Yet Harris County still wanted to keep Tatum in charge of elections.

However, in August the Texas Supreme Court rejected the county’s request to temporarily block SB 1750, so Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth took over the task of running elections.

Hudspeth, who has more than a decade of local elections office experience under both Republicans and Democrats, ran Harris County’s November 7 election and is now managing runoffs in Houston’s mayoral and city council races.

Just before Thanksgiving, Menefee filed a notice of “nonsuit without prejudice,” withdrawing the county’s lawsuit but reserving the right to refile. The state then asked the Texas Supreme Court to abate a pending appeal in the case and cancel oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday.

“Thanks for recognizing the obvious Harris County Attorney @CDMenefee that this was good public policy,” Bettencourt posted on X. “Already County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth was credited with an improved Elections Administration by the public and who knows, maybe Judge @LinaHidalgoTX agrees that our elected officials are doing a better job than her two appointed EAs ever did back in 2022!”

Once the trial court formally dismisses Harris County’s case, the state will file a motion to dismiss its appeal. The Texas Supreme Court set a deadline of January 26, 2024.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.