After a Travis County judge temporarily blocked election security legislation from going into effect, the office of the Texas Attorney General has filed an appeal.
Travis County’s 250th State District Judge, Democrat Karin Crump, ordered a temporary injunction against the state of Texas regarding implementing Senate Bill 1750. The law is set to go into effect on September 1.
In 2020, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the commissioners’ court decided to appoint an elections administrator who would handle all election duties. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former Secretary of State Ruth Hughs accused the county of violating Texas Election code.
After a series of problems occurred since the new position was created, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) filed legislation abolishing the unelected position of county elections administrator and transfering the administrator’s duties to elected officials.
A month after the measure was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, Harris County filed their lawsuit. The county claims the measure singles out them out specifically so as to disrupt its local control over elections. The lawsuit also alleges the new law violates the Texas Constitution by passing local or special laws targeting certain jurisdictions.
Crump concurred with the county’s sentiments, writing the plaintiffs would experience irreparable injury “because it will be forced to implement an unconstitutional statute.” She continued:
Not only will this transfer lead to inefficiencies, disorganization, confusion, office instability, and increased costs to Harris County, but it will also disrupt an election that the Harris County EA has been planning for months. The Harris County Clerk and the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector have had no role in preparing for the November Election. Transferring responsibility for that election just weeks before voting starts will disrupt existing processes and risk the efficient administration of the election.
Hours after the injunction was announced, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a press release applauding the order.
“This decision proves the Texas Constitution still matters. More than half of Texas counties have election administrators – including Bexar, Tarrant, Dallas, and Collin Counties. Senate Bill 1750 was written to only target Harris County,” wrote Sylvester. “Striking down Senate Bill 1750 – passed based on evidence deemed inadmissible in court – is a good first step.”
Shortly after Houston officials celebrated the injunction, the Texas Attorney General’s office filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The office wrote in a press release that “the legislature had a reasonable basis for the law: Harris County is the most populous county in Texas, and, as such, has an outsized statewide impact on elections, a consideration enhanced by the county’s past significant difficulty with election administration.”
Notably, the Harris County Clerk, Teneshia Hudspeth, has announced that in accordance with SB 1750 she would be moving forward with plans to take back election administration duties starting September 1.
Christine Welborn, the executive director of Advancing Integrity, said her organization supports the legislators who followed the election code.
“When Harris County replaced their county clerk with an elections administrator, they went outside the process to do it,” said Welborn. “When Harris County’s elected officials passed this legislation, they followed the process. We’re on the side of the process.”
The Office of the Texas Attorney General has not responded to a request for comment.