Major changes in effect for Harris County elections

Chaz Miller Image
Friday, September 1, 2023
Texas Secretary of State's Office will take control of Harris County elections following the enactment of SB 1933 and SB 1750
The Texas Secretary of State's Office now has the ability to take over elections in Harris County, with the next one taking place on Nov. 7.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Secretary of State's Office has the authority to take over elections in Harris County now that laws passed during this year's Texas legislative session are in effect.

That law, which started as Senate Bill 1933, makes Harris County the only county in the state where such a takeover is possible.

The other significant law that went into effect Friday as it relates to Harris County elections is Senate Bill 1750.

RELATED: This Week in Texas: How Senate Bill 1750 will impact Harris County elections

It eliminates the position of elections administrator, which was held by Clifford Tatum, and returns oversight of the process to the county clerk and tax assessor.

The secretary of state would take control away from those officials should they deem it necessary due to frequent problems at polling sites.

RELATED: Harris Co. election administrator is jobless after TX Supreme Court rules Senate Bill 1750 into law

Both laws only apply to Harris County.

State lawmakers, including Sen. Paul Bettencourt, discussed the new laws on Friday during a press conference.

They explained how both bills were originally written, as well as filed, to include more than just Harris County, but explained why the final version wound up including only one.

"These bills were clearly broad, and then narrowed down as testimony occurred," Bettencourt said. "Testimonies by dozens of witnesses made it clear there were problems that needed to be fixed."

Harris County had issues in last year's primary with missing ballots and counting delays, and then in the midterms experienced long lines, not enough paper at booths, and faulty machines.

Bettencourt wouldn't say if he believed voter fraud occurred as a result, but did explain why he feels voter suppression took place.

"There was no question about voter suppression," he said while explaining that people were turned away from polling places as a result of missing paper.

ABC13 has not been able to verify if that took place, and the claim is part of multiple lawsuits.

The next elections in Harris County take place on Nov. 7, which is 67 days away.

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