Local elections administrators from across Texas received a shout-out from the state’s top election official at their annual meeting this week.
On Tuesday, Texas Secretary of State John Scott addressed members of the Texas Association of Elections Administrators at their 2022 conference in Fort Worth, urging more transparency to deal with the “crisis of confidence” among voters over whether their ballots will count.
It’s the first time a secretary of state has attended the event, according to TAEA President Remi Garza.
Election-related matters are mostly handled by specialized staff within the office’s elections division.
Garza said Secretary Scott’s visit “highlights the partnership he has already demonstrated since taking office and his focus on elections,” adding he sees Scott as “a great ally for these coming years.”
Scott was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott in October.
“Thank you for what you do to make elections work,” Scott told the administrators.
He said most Texans don’t know who puts on elections.
While the state Legislature writes election laws and the secretary’s office oversees their implementation, elections are run at the county level by elected county clerks or appointed elections administrators.
“As county election officials, you serve the most critical function in our democracy: You protect the integrity of the ballot box,” Scott said. “You make sure that Texas elections are accurate, fair, and secure.”
He said the “new reality” includes the unprecedented scrutiny of election systems and the people who run them, and voters inundated with information that “chips away at the confidence” in the ability of their vote to count.
“Elections administrators here in Texas and across the country are dealing with a crisis of confidence among voters and have been for the past several election cycles,” he said. “Not only are voters animated about the issues and our candidates on the ballot, they’re animated about the integrity of the ballot box.”
Scott said he thinks the ongoing audit of the 2020 election will be “an information mechanism to pass knowledge on to the voters” about the election process.
“Is there fraud in elections?” he asked. “Probably as long as there’s been elections, somebody’s been trying to game elections.”
Scott said there shouldn’t be any debate over whether we should be finding out if someone is trying to commit fraud:
Ultimately, the only thing we can hope for is that people have such security that they feel comfortable going and casting a ballot. To me, the worst thing that can happen is someone decides not to vote because they believe their vote won’t count—because the election is rigged, because someone else has gamed the system and illegally voted.
“That’s something that you’re at the forefront of stopping,” he added.
Scott also encouraged transparency.
“Heider Garcia said it best at our election law conference: ‘Give us a chance to show you what we do.’ That’s what we need to be telling people, our voters, our fellow citizens,” he said.
“It’s the thing that should give people confidence,” he added. “Make it transparent.”