Lawsuits based on false claims about voting equipment could delay millions of dollars in cost of living increases for retired teachers expected to arrive in January. The lawsuits also threaten to hold up state property tax cuts for homeowners — arguably Republicans’ signature policy achievement this year.
Voters widely approved both policies this fall. Now Texas lawmakers are scrambling in hopes of preventing further delays.
The election contests challenging the results of the November constitutional amendment election were filed in Travis County district courts days after the November election by right-wing activists. They are based on false claims that Texas’ voting equipment is not certified and that voting machines are connected to the internet. Abbott has not certified the results of the election and won’t be able to until the lawsuits are resolved in the courts — which experts say could take weeks or months.
Voter advocates say the election contests are yet another attempt to undermine trust in elections. This time, though, it could have immediate negative implications for millions of Texans.
“I think this is a perfect example of the real impact in peoples’ lives when we delay the certification of our vote because of misinformation,” said Katya Ehresman, voting rights program manager at Common Cause Texas.
At least six lawsuits — filed by residents from Bexar, Llano, Denton, Rains, Brazoria, Liberty, and Atascosa counties who have ties to local promoters of election conspiracies — are challenging the 14 constitutional amendment propositions that were on the ballot in November.
By law, challenges to constitutional amendment elections can’t go to trial earlier than a month after it’s been filed — unless requested by the contestant — and not later than six months after it was filed.
But on Friday, in the middle of Texas’ fourth special legislative session this year, a state senator introduced a bill that would eliminate that requirement and to compress the timeline under which such challenges are heard. The bill was then hastily passed through a committee and sent to the Senate floor, where it passed 23-1. It will now go to the House, which was also in session Friday. Its author, Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said that if it isn’t passed that property tax cuts and extra money for retired teachers would be in jeopardy.
“It’s a big deal,” he said.
In order for the bill to become law, Gov. Greg Abbott would have to add the issue to the special session’s agenda. On Friday, an Abbott aide said he’d consider doing so if both chambers can agree to a bill.
At least two of the six nearly identical lawsuits were filed by Jarrett Woodward of Bexar County. Woodward has in the past year spoken in front of county commissioners in Kerr, Uvalde, Medina, and Bexar counties trying to persuade them to ditch electronic voting equipment and to hand count ballots instead.
In the lawsuits, Woodward argues the voting equipment used in the Nov. 7 election was not properly certified and that “the ballot marking devices similar to those that Contestants were forced to use for voting in 2023 contain multiple severe security flaws including the opportunity to install malicious software locally or remotely.”
Voting machines used in Texas by vendors ES&S and Hart InterCivic have been certified by the Texas Secretary of State and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Neither the machines used to cast ballots nor the machines used to count ballots have the capability to connect to the internet. The process to certify election equipment in Texas is robust: After vendors submit an application for certification, state officials physically examine the equipment and test its accuracy.
Last year, Woodward and others filed similar lawsuits against multiple county officials across the state for using voting equipment they say is not certified; at least seven were dismissed and the others have yet to succeed. Similar unfounded claims have been made in other states across the country.
See here for a reminder about what the amendments were, and here for a reminder of how mind-bendingly stupid the idea of hand-counting ballots is. Maybe the Lege will speed up this process in the dying days of the latest special session, I have no idea. But I do know who owns the reason for the need to deal with this at all.
The bill in question, by the way, is SB6. The record vote was not available when I looked, but I’d bet you a dollar the one vote against was from that walking spittoon Bob Hall.