Governor Greg Abbott of Texas issued a press release on Nov. 19 that announced approval for a $4 million budget to fund an Election Audit Division within the Office of the Texas Secretary of State (SoS). Abbott says the division will be focused on conducting a "comprehensive forensic audit."
In late September, the Texas Secretary of State's Office had announced an audit of the two largest Democrat and the two largest Republican counties—Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Collin. Donald Trump had called it a "weak risk-limiting audit that is being slow-walked through the Secretary of State's office." Now it is funded, and Abbott is calling it the "largest forensic audit in the country."
Trump was awarded 38 electoral votes for a reported margin of ~5.6% in Texas, where Captain Seth Keshel estimates nearly 700K excess votes for Biden. Under Attorney General Ken Paxton, Texas sued Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia in early 2021, alleging that their use of pandemic claims to ignore election laws disenfranchised Texas citizens. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case or review the evidence.
AG Paxton announced the formation of an Election Integrity Unit in October that would be a continuation of a Ballot Fraud Intervention Team initiative that resulted in several election integrity lawsuits in 2020. The Office of the Attorney General maintains an election integrity site that numbers active election fraud investigations and results of criminal election fraud cases in the State.
The press release that announced the new unit stated:
"Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced the formation of his 2021 Texas Election Integrity Unit, which is a concentrated effort to devote agency lawyers, investigators, support staff, and resources to ensuring this local election season—which begins with early voting today, Monday, Oct. 18—is run transparently and securely. The Integrity Unit's primary function is to serve as a focused resource to both election officials and the public. The agency will also monitor a public email address—email@example.com—to receive information about alleged violations of the Texas Election Code.
Since taking office in 2015, the Attorney General has resolved 286 prosecutions of Texas Election Code criminal offenses against 76 defendants. Attorney General Paxton is currently prosecuting over 500 felony election fraud offenses in Texas courts."
Governor Abbott had named election integrity an emergency item during his State of the State address in February. In March, he had a press conference to thank Senator Paul Bettencourt and Representative Briscoe Cain for drafting election integrity legislation.
In July, 57 Democrats in the House fled the State, knowing their absence would stall unwanted legislation. Senate Bill 1, the 'Election Integrity Protection Act' from Senator Bryan Hughes, passed in August anyway and was signed into law on Sept. 7. Governor Abbott said, "[S.B. 1] makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat."
Senate Bill 1 includes requirements that voter registration databases be shared and reconciled monthly between the SoS and the Department of Public Safety. It stipulates that voted ballots be video surveilled and that curing be conducted uniformly. It prohibits drive-through voting, voting machines with active wireless connectivity, and sending mail-in ballot applications that were not requested. It also expands voter I.D. requirements, changes Signature Verification Committee rules, and allows poll-watchers to observe curing.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas to challenge S.B. 1 after its passage. The suit claims the bill violates Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, which defines proper legal assistance for voters with disabilities. S.B. 1 amends the oath that those who assist must swear, and the DOJ argues that the new language will disenfranchise voters. The lawsuit also alleges that extending the existing voter I.D. requirement for in-person voting to absentee voting violates Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act.
In August, Texas Representative Steve Toth joined the Dark to Light podcast to discuss Texas H.B. 16 (full text), the bill he introduced for full forensic audits in Texas. It would require a full forensic audit of counties that have a population of 455,000 or greater. As Donald Trump said in his Sept. 23 statement, "We need H.B. 16. This legislation specifically addresses the 2020 Presidential Election and enables audits for future elections. The bill creates a process for candidates and party chairs to initiate an audit."
Texas S.B. 47 (full text) is the Senate version of Toth's audit legislation, introduced by Senator Bettencourt. Trump's Oct. 1 statement called it "legislation that authorizes Texans to initiate a strong and real Forensic Audit of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam—not a weak risk-limiting audit that is being slow-walked through the Secretary of State's office."