Houston and Harris County leaders have collaboratively called a recent move by Texas Secretary of State John B. Scott an attempt to suppress votes.
The Texas Secretary of State’s Office, in a letter submitted days before the start of early voting for the 2022 midterm election, informed Harris County it will send a team of inspectors and election security trainers to observe and help administer the Nov. 8 election in the state’s largest metropolitan area.
Houston-area leaders responded by requesting that the US Justice Department send federal monitors to watch the inspectors in an attempt to halt potential voter intimidation.
State Senator Borris Miles responded immediately to Scott’s announcement.
“The Texas Secretary of State (SOS) sent a letter to the Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office (EAO) outlining plans that will intimidate voters and election workers for the upcoming November Election,” said Miles. “The timing of the letter, a week before early voting, is incredibly suspect and could potentially disrupt the entire election process.”
Miles said the SOS letter failed to provide key details regarding the Office of Attorney General’s (OAG) “task force,” including the rules and guidelines they will be operating by. Ken Paxton, the state’s Attorney General, has been indicted for felony securities fraud charges, among other things.
“There are so many unanswered questions like, whether the task force will be allowed to enter polling sites, whether they will be allowed to talk to voters trying to cast a ballot and actions the task force will be able to take in Harris County. Just their presence alone will have a negative impact on the election process and voter turnout,” added Miles.
A letter released and signed by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee and County Judge Lina Hidalgo, said “These actions appear designed to chill voters’ trust in the election process in Harris County, and to disrupt and intimidate local election workers as they execute their duties to ensure the 2022 election is ‘smooth and secure,’ as the Texas Secretary of State described the 2020 election at the time.”
“That is an obviously very dangerous development in the midterm election here in Texas,” said James Slattery, the senior supervising legislative attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit that advocates for voting rights. “There is no obvious purpose to this letter other than a preemptive strike by state officials to discredit publicly the results of the 2022 election here in Texas, even before a single person has gone to the polls.”
The Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Houston), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also criticized Scott’s move.
“We condemn in the strongest terms this recent attack by the Secretary of State on the 2020 elections held here in Harris County, which is an obvious attempt at voter suppression and intimidation,” said CAIR-Houston Director William White. “We encourage everyone in Harris County to carefully research candidates on their ballot and to vote based on who you feel will be best for office. You should feel free to vote as you choose and not be swayed by this scare tactic. If you experience any instances of intimidation or voter suppression, please contact the CAIR-Houston office immediately.”
Scott based his decision on alleged Nov. 2020 election minor discrepancies which would be found in any audit of a large county, and others that exceeded technology in Harris County in 2020. The previous Secretary of State found no significant improprieties with the 2020 election.