With a 81-62 vote, the Texas House passed Senate Bill 1750 on May 23, effectively eliminating Harris County’s election administrator system. With the passing of SB 1750, election responsibilities will be directed to the Harris County tax assessor-collector and the Harris County clerk.

The impact: Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum was appointed in August by members of the Harris County Election Commission. SB 1750 dissolves his position, which will take effect by Sept. 1, according to the bill’s language.

Quote of note: Rep. Jarvis Houston, D-Houston, began his public comment on the House floor with one question regarding the Harris County elections: “Why do you care about what we do in Harris County as opposed to the other 253 counties?”

Sorting out details: The Harris County elections administrator’s office was criticized for Election Day issues in 2022. Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, who sponsored the bill alongside Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, called out the following issues:

  • Incorrect mapping
  • Wrong ballot styles
  • Not enough paper
  • Polling places not hiring staff until three to four weeks before election
  • Placement of judges in the wrong place
  • Polling locations unavailable
  • Paper jams

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said these laws are not the answer.

“The Legislature doesn’t meet again until 2025,” Garcia said. “A patchwork law aimed at one county is no way to get to uniformity and consistency across the state of Texas and our election system. Free and fair elections should be the goal of everyone; the Legislature has taken a giant step back in that effort.”

What’s next: SB 1750 is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to be signed into law.

The second bill, Senate Bill 1933, which garnered a 81-51 vote, would allow the secretary of state’s office to oversee Harris County elections if an election complaint is filed.

The impact: The secretary of state could potentially oversee Harris County for at least one year to the date the complaint was resolved, according to the bill’s language.

  • An investigation can take place.
  • If the secretary of state’s office finds a recurring pattern of problems, a petition can be filed for the removal of county election officials.
  • It allows for randomized county audits.

The backstory: Bettencourt authored both SB 1750 and SB 1933 back in March. Bettencourt said in a news release May 23 that SB 1750 will restore voter trust, accountability, and transparency in Harris County elections.

“Now voters in Harris County can be assured that the officials running their elections are elected and accountable to the public,” Bettencourt said.

What’s next: SB 1933 was originally written to apply to all counties but was amended on the House floor May 23 to impact on Harris County. The House’s changes will return to Senate for approval this week.

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee called the decision a dangerous precedent.

“I want to be clear: this fight is not over,” Menefee said in a statement. “We are evaluating our legal options and expect to share more later this week. We cannot and will not allow the state to illegally target Harris County.”

Click here to read public comments submitted to the Texas House on the Harris County elections.