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Harris County to pursue legal action in wake of 2022 election audit announcement

Last week, the Secretary of State said it randomly selected four counties to be audited after the November 2022 election. That didn't sit well with Lina Hidalgo.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A political back-and-forth is brewing between Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the Texas Secretary of State over an election audit that will be performed later this year.

Last week, the Texas Secretary of State said it randomly selected four counties to be audited after the November 2022 election.

The announcement of the audit didn't sit well with Hidalgo, who tweeted after the announcement that Harris County Commissioners Court authorized County Attorney Christian Menefee to take legal action "against the latest politically motivated 'election audit' on Harris County. Enough is enough. We can’t continue spreading the Big Lie. This is a distraction from the work needed to prepare for the next election."

The Secretary of State says the audit is required under the current election code and the four counties that will be audited were selected randomly.

"In accordance with statutory requirements under Sec. 127.351 of the Texas Election Code, our office randomly selected four counties – two with a population of 300,000 or more and two with a population less than 300,000 – to be audited immediately after the November 2022 election. Counties in each category had an equal chance of being selected, were drawn from strips of paper placed in a bucket, and – although not required by statute – it was done on camera," the Secretary of State said in a statement after Hidalgo's tweet went out.

The Secretary of State also denounced the suggestion that Harris County or any other county was deliberately chosen.

"The suggestion that Harris County – or any other county – was deliberately chosen for a randomized election audit is completely false. Unfortunately, this is a counterfactual, delusional conspiracy theory that some officials in Harris County have chosen to perpetuate," the Secretary of State said.

In early July, the Harris County Election Commission unanimously voted for Clifford Tatum to take over as elections administrator upon him becoming a Texas resident and registered voter in Texas. It's unclear if he has actually taken the position.

The decision to pick Tatum was made by both Republicans and Democrats on the election commission. 

Former Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria submitted her resignation in March after a series of issues and mounting complaints that arose during the 2022 primary elections.

In her resignation, Longoria took the blame for not meeting her own expectations but also said the implementation of SB1 had caused many voting problems not just in Harris County, but in several counties across the state.

The back-and-forth between Hidalgo and the Secretary of State also prompted Sen. Paul Bettencourt to issue this statement:

“The democrat majority on the Harris County Commissioner's Court has authorized their most ‘frivolous’ election lawsuit yet on a partisan 3 to 2 vote. This time along with County Attorney Menefee, they are disputing the ‘randomness’ of an audit selection by the Texas Secretary of State as they were one of two large counties out of 18 selected per an Amendment to SB 1. Really!? More like a frivolous squared waste of taxpayer monies this time.”

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