The Texas Supreme Court denied Harris County’s request for emergency relief to temporarily block the September 1 implementation of Senate Bill 1750, which abolishes the Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office. The court also set for oral argument the state’s appeal of the trial court’s ruling in favor of Harris County. That argument is set to take place on Nov. 28, 2023.
This ruling comes in the wake of a Travis County District Court’s recent ruling halting SB 1750 from going into effect as scheduled on Sept. 1. The Travis County court ruling was hailed as a victory by Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee and immediately appealed by the state’s Attorney General office.
Menefee sees the state’s higher court ruling as a major setback, not only to his county but to democracy, in general.
“I am disappointed that the Texas Supreme Court is quietly allowing the legislature to illegally target Harris County, instead of considering the arguments and timely deciding whether Senate Bill 1750 violates the constitution. We first learned of today’s decision from media, instead of from the court itself,” said Menefee.
“From the start, Republican legislators pushed this law abolishing the Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office to undermine local elections and score political points on the backs of the good people who run them. By setting the law to go into effect September 1, and not passing a single law to assist in the transition or provide additional funding, Republican legislators are making the job of running this November’s election much more difficult. It was on the Texas Supreme Court to rein in these bad-faith lawmakers. The court failed Harris County residents.”
The county requested emergency relief because if the law were to go into effect while the county’s case is pending and the county refused to abolish the elections administrator’s office, it is not clear how that would impact the Nov. 2023 elections.
Early voting for that election begins Oct. 23.; an election that includes statewide constitutional amendments, countywide bond propositions and municipal races for the City of Houston.
Menefee has already made his position on the matter clear, viewing SB 1750 as a “political vendetta by a single senator in the Texas Senate who doesn’t like Harris County officials and wants to find ways to undermine them.”
“For nearly 100 years, the Texas Constitution has prohibited laws that can only ever apply to one locale. And that’s because legislators are supposed to be passing laws that benefit the entire state of Texas. At the end of the day, we know that this is not about making elections better for the Republican Party. It’s about undermining confidence in our elections.”
Menefee added to his argument that with SB 1750, confusion is the goal.
“We’re going to be behind the eight ball,” Menefee said, regarding the possibility of SB 1750 going into effect, “and that’s because that’s exactly what (State) Senator (Paul) Bettencourt and Republican legislators wanted. They wanted us to be in a situation where we were just a few weeks out from the start of important processes in the November election, and we were having to scramble because of this law that blows up our election processes.”
“When you’re preparing for an election, you start nine months out. And to turn that over to a new set of officials just weeks before the start of voting in a new election, it’s going to be catastrophic,” he added.
“At the next Commissioners Court meeting on Aug. 29, I will discuss the ruling and its implications with Commissioners Court members so that they can decide how best to proceed,” added Menefee.