HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Judge Lina Hidalgo is sounding the alarm for residents to be aware of proposed bills in the Texas legislature that she says directly affects Harris County voters.
During a media availability Friday evening, Hidalgo highlighted four bills she said are "declaring war" on Harris County's elections system.
"And what they seem not to realize is that it's just not a murder plot against residents in Harris County, it's a murder-suicide plot that conspires against residents in all of Texas," Hidalgo said.
The four bills Hidalgo mentioned are:
SB 1750: Relates to abolishing the county elections administrator position in certain counties. Hidalgo said nine out of the 10 largest counties in Texas have an elections administrator and she says research shows having an elections administrator improves public trust in elections and makes elections more efficient.
"Over the past legislative session, laws have been passed to make it harder for us to conduct our elections," Hidalgo said. "In the face of those challenges, we created the elections administrator's office, which as I mentioned, has helped us move through those hurdles and conduct elections efficiently."
SB 1933: Relates to randomized audits of elections in certain counties. Hidalgo said this will take autonomy away from local governments at large over how to run their own election. It will instead hand control over to the Secretary of State.
SB 1039: Relates to processes to address election irregularities; providing civil penalty.
"Obviously, with the amount of false tales of election irregularities peddled in recent years, that bill would seek to burden our local administrative office," Hidalgo said. "It will allow folks disgruntled by election results to swarm our election offices and overburden our elections administrators."
SB 1993: Allows the Secretary of State to order a new election in certain counties, according to the Texas Legislature. More specifically, this bill will allow the Secretary of State to call for a new election in Harris County if 2% of polling places run out of paper for more than an hour. Judge Hidalgo said this bill directly targets Harris County because it's only applied to Texas counties with 2.7 million people or more. Harris County is the only county in Texas with more than 2.7 million people.
When KHOU 11 did a story about SB 1993, we talked to Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones who said the bill is about wielding a big stick.
"I think the hope of Republican lawmakers is not that the Secretary of State will ever have to use this authority but rather, that in response to that, Harris County will get its act together and hold elections that aren't deeply flawed as we've had in the past cycle," Jones said.
Jones said the bill is also about marketing, allowing Republican leadership to show it is working hard on election integrity.
Hidalgo said these bills are a political maneuver and were decided to give one party a leg up.