AUSTIN (Nexstar) — As Republican Alexandra Mealer challenges her loss in the November election for Harris County Judge, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) is pushing new election laws to address mistakes in that election he called “preposterous.”
Bettencourt praised the “record number of a dozen or more election challenges filed in Harris County” on Friday. As of 2 p.m., the county clerk‘s electronic filings reflected at least 11 petitions from Republicans challenging their election.
Mealer lost to Lina Hidalgo by more than 18,000 votes and conceded the next day. Two months later, she joins other Harris County Republican candidates in asking the county to nullify the results and declare them the winners or order a new election.
“The County has prevented eligible voters from voting and engaged in illegal conduct or made mistakes that have resulted in both undermining the confidence the public has in the election’s outcome,” Mealer claims in her court petition.
Harris County is facing multiple lawsuits that claim multiple voting locations ran out of ballot paper on Nov. 8, leading to long lines and “voter suppression.”
The county’s post-election assessment pushes back on claims from Bettencourt and others that “thousands” of voters were turned away due to the issues, writing, “our investigation has not yet revealed how many of these [voting centers] had to turn voters away due to a paper shortage… the initial media reports suggested a problem more extensive than what the EAO has been able to confirm.”
County Attorney Christian Menefee pushed back on the lawsuits, calling them “frivolous attempts to overturn the votes of more than a million residents.”
“These losing candidates are finally laying bare what we all know to be true — for them, it’s not about improving elections or making sure our elections are secure, it’s about playing games with our democratic systems,” he said.
But Bettencourt said this election will have serious legislative consequences in the upcoming legislative session.
“Absolutely, there are going to be more election integrity bills,” he said. “You can’t have the nation’s third-largest county put on an election and not get ballot paper to dozens of polls. That’s real voter suppression.”
The senator pre-filed legislation that would implement new election laws. Senate Bill 220 would designate some law enforcement officials as election marshals. These new officials would have the authority to investigate election claims and even bring criminal charges.
Senate Bill 221 would give the Secretary of State the authority to review and reject ballot language for local propositions, designed to prevent props that are “misleading, inaccurate, or prejudicial.”
“There’s going to be lots of legislation that comes out of this,” Bettencourt said.