Texas Republicans consider new election laws amid ‘record number’ of challenges

Austin (Nexstar) — As Republican Alexandra Miler disputes her defeat in the November election for a Harris County judge, State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) is pushing new election laws to correct what he called “absurd” mistakes in this election .

Betancourt praised the “record number of a dozen or more election complaints filed in Harris County” on Friday. As of 2:00 pm, the county clerk’s electronic filings reflected at least 11 petitions from Republicans challenging their election.

Miler lost to Lina Hidalgo by over 18,000 votes and conceded the next day. Two months later, she joins other Harris County Republican candidates in asking the county to annul the results and declare them winners or call a new election.

“The county did not allow eligible voters to engage in illegal activities or make mistakes that would undermine public confidence in the election results,” Miler argues in his court filing.

Harris County is facing multiple lawsuits alleging that multiple voting locations ran out of ballots on November 8, leading to long lines and “voter suppression.”

The county’s post-election assessment refutes claims by Betancourt and others that “thousands” of voters were turned away due to issues, writing, “Our investigation has not yet revealed how many of these [voting centers] voters had to be turned down due to paper shortages…initial media reports suggested the issue was more serious than what the EAO was able to confirm.”

County Attorney Christian Menefee dismissed the lawsuits, calling them “baseless attempts to cancel the votes of over a million residents.”

“These losing candidates are finally revealing what we all know is the truth – for them, this is not about improving elections or securing our elections, but about playing with our democratic systems,” he said.

But Betancourt said the election will have major legislative implications in the upcoming legislative session.

“Certainly there will be more electoral integrity bills,” he said. “You can’t hold an election in the third largest constituency in the country and not get ballots for dozens of polling stations. This is real voter suppression.”

The senator tentatively filed a bill that would implement the new electoral laws. Senate Bill 220 would appoint some law enforcement officials to lead the election. These new officials will have the power to investigate campaign statements and even bring criminal charges.

Senate Bill 221 would grant the Secretary of State the power to review and reject ballot language for local proposals intended to prevent proposals that are “misleading, inaccurate, or biased.”

“A lot of laws will come out of this,” Betancourt said.

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