Texas’ newly appointed chief election official provided voters in Collin County with a progress report this week on the state’s ongoing partial audit of the November 2020 election—efforts bolstered by $4 million in funding announced today for a new Election Audit Division within the Texas secretary of state’s office.

In a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday hosted by State Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), Texas Secretary of State John Scott described the steps involved in the audit, what progress has been made, and why it’s important.

“It’s a huge undertaking, but one that’s necessary to restore confidence in our elections,” Scott told Paxton’s constituents in the meeting focused on election integrity.

Scott was appointed secretary of state in October, following a five-month vacancy in the position. At the time, he said his top priority was completing the internal audits.

Paxton’s Senate District 8 lies mostly within Collin County, one of the four counties included in the ongoing audit. She said election integrity was the most frequent topic of communications her office received this legislative session.

In September, prior to Scott’s appointment, the secretary of state’s office announced it had launched a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of the 2020 general election in four Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Harris, and Tarrant.

A week later, the office provided more details of exactly what the audit would entail and said it was being conducted in two phases.

Scott said Wednesday the first phase is “well underway.”

Phase 1 includes voter list maintenance, a routine process required by state and federal law of regularly removing ineligible people from voter rolls, including deceased voters, people who have moved away or are registered in multiple places, and non-U.S. citizens.

The process is enhanced this year with data from the Electronic Registration Information Center, a nationwide voter roll crosscheck program Texas joined in March 2020 that helps identify people who are improperly registered in the state or voted here illegally.

The first audit phase also included testing voting machine accuracy with partial manual recounts of paper ballots (also done routinely under current law) and a cybersecurity assessment of all counties’ election systems.

Scott said he expects a report on Phase 1 by the end of the year, adding his office would be “fully transparent with the public” about the audit process and findings.

Phase 2 is “much more detailed” and includes “a 13-page list of items to be examined” for each of the four counties, Scott said, such as mail ballots, in-person ballots, voting machines, and more.

He said auditors would be looking at “a multitude of issues” beyond the risk-limiting audits already done, documenting information for almost 4 million votes—a third of all Texas votes cast in the 2020 presidential election.

The “forensic” aspect of the audit will reveal any issues that rise to the level of criminal activity, so they can be turned over to the attorney general’s office to investigate and potentially prosecute.

The audit will also allow problems within the election process to be identified so specific recommendations for fixes can be made to the Legislature, and will offer a comparison of how effectively different county election offices operate.

“What we learn from these four counties can be extrapolated,” Scott said.

“The purpose of the audit is to bring election integrity and restore confidence among voters that our elections are secure, only eligible voters are voting, and counts are not altered,” he added.

“The public must have confidence in the outcome of elections,” Paxton said. “To do that, they must have confidence in the procedures and accuracy of the process.”

But some election integrity advocates say the ongoing audit isn’t enough.

Last month, the Collin County Republican Party adopted a resolution calling for a full forensic audit of the 2020 election in Texas.

Unlike the audit Scott’s office is now overseeing, grassroots activists want an independent third-party review of the 13 largest counties in the state.

Collin Republicans’ resolution said the state’s current efforts are “not adequate to create confidence and answer all questions related to election integrity and the possibility of election fraud from the 2020 elections.”

In a move that bolsters Scott’s work, Abbott announced Friday an “emergency” budget transfer of $4 million to establish a new Election Audit Division within the secretary of state’s office:

“The people of Texas must have trust and confidence in the election process, as well as the outcomes of our elections, which is why the state of Texas will transfer funding needed so that the Texas Secretary of State can create a division dedicated entirely to this important issue.”

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.