The GOP-controlled Texas Senate has passed a controversial proposal that would enable the state to overturn election results in Harris County, home to the staunchly Democratic city of Houston. The move has been met with significant criticism, with many people viewing it as an attempt to undermine democracy itself.
The legislation was proposed after a shortage of ballot paper at some voting sites in the county during the 2022 election. If the bill is passed, Republican Governor Greg Abbott would have the power to undo election results by ordering a new election in the county if it runs out of paper at 2% or more of its polling sites for more than an hour.
Critics of the bill argue that it would give too much power to the governor, allowing him to overturn election results based on flimsy pretexts. The move has been compared to similar attempts by former President Donald Trump to challenge election results in other states.
The bill's Republican co-author, Mayes Middleton, claims that the shortage of paper "stopped countless people from voting on election day." However, a Houston Chronicle study found that there was "no evidence voters were systematically disenfranchised."
Many have condemned the GOP's actions.
Opponents of the bill argue that it is a thinly veiled attempt to suppress votes in Harris County, which is one of the most diverse and populous areas of Texas. In recent years, the county has voted overwhelmingly in favor of Democrats, with over 55 percent of voters choosing Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Critics of the bill also argue that it disproportionately targets people of color, who are more likely to experience long lines and other barriers to voting. Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee described the bill as "about targeting the largest county in the state, which is led by people of color."
Despite widespread criticism, the bill has passed the Texas Senate and will now go to the Republican-controlled Texas House. If it is passed into law, it could set a dangerous precedent for other states, enabling governors to overturn election results based on minor issues or technicalities.