The right move at this time, though the whole thing still rankles.
Harris County dropped its lawsuit against the state on Wednesday, ending its challenge to a law that went into effect weeks ago eliminating the county’s elections office.
The county had hoped to stop the measure Texas Republicans passed earlier this year that abolished the Harris County elections administrator, an appointed position, and returned election duties to two elected officials, the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector. However, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee on Wednesday called the case “moot” since the county was already forced to comply with the law starting on Sept. 1.
Though more than half of Texas counties have an appointed elections administrator, the new law applies only to Harris County, which created the office in July 2020.
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee had argued the law violated the Texas Constitution by targeting just one county. A district judge agreed with Menefee in August, temporarily delaying the measure from going into effect and writing in her order that Harris County should not be forced to implement “an unconstitutional statute” that was designed “to deprive Harris County of a statutory right available to every other county in Texas.”
When the Texas Attorney General’s office appealed that ruling, the Texas Supreme Court decided the law could go into effect as planned and was scheduled to hear the county’s argument on Nov. 28 that the law was unconstitutional.
The county instead made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit days before that hearing.
“The Texas Supreme Court’s decision in August allowed the state to abolish the elections administrator’s office,” Menefee said in a statement Wednesday evening. “That mooted the county’s claims. I look forward to continuing to support County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth in elections moving forward.”
I mentioned the appellate hearing in this post, though at the time I thought it had already happened. I agree with the county’s decision to stop pursuing this lawsuit, as the horse is out of the barn and even if we had won it would not make any sense to change how we conduct elections again, for the umpteenth time in three years. It’s all water under the bridge, and it might be best to turn the temperature down a wee bit by conceding on an issue that isn’t of the greatest importance. I remain concerned that the precedent has now been set that the Lege can specifically target one county in a way that will forever only apply to that county, but that will have to be a fight for another day, either when it comes up in another bill or if a future Harris County government wants to go the Elections Administrator’s office route again. For now, we’ll live with this.