Christian D. Menefee Harris County
Christian D. Menefee, County Attorney of Harris County, TX. Photo credit:

On Thursday, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee announced that his county, which includes greater Houston, is challenging the constitutionality of a Texas bill that would abolish the role of their election administrator.

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Some legislative efforts to undermine democracy are cloaked in fancy language about “election integrity,” which sometimes makes it hard to figure out that their goal is to achieve the opposite. Others are almost comically transparent. Senate Bill 1750, which the Texas Legislature passed earlier this year, is clearly an example of the latter. And Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee hopes that this will make it easier to have it thrown out.

On Thursday, he announced that his county, which includes greater Houston, is challenging the constitutionality of SB 1750. And, upon a closer look at what the legislation does — and, more importantly, where — it seems unfathomable that this law would be allowed to stand.

So, what does SB 1750 do?

It abolishes the position of election administrator “in certain counties.” That in itself would already be strange since these administrators are nonpartisan officials who help ensure that elections run more smoothly.

It would seem that eliminating this position and putting the administration in the hands of an elected tax assessor would be a step in the wrong direction. In other words, that’s the kind of thing someone would pass who wants elections to be more chaotic.

However, that’s not what makes the legislation especially devious.

What’s truly insidious about SB 1750 is that, while it supposedly applies to “certain counties,” that’s not true at all.

Because a closer look at the legislation reveals that it only targets one county: Harris County.

Specifically, SB 1750 applies to all counties with a population of more than 3.5 million on September 1 of this year.

But, unless a million people move to Dallas County in the next few weeks, there is only a single county that will meet this criterion by the deadline: Harris County.

Menefee believes that makes SB 1750 unconstitutional, because it is not enough to pretend that the legislation applies to “certain counties” when there is really only one target.

“The Texas Constitution prohibits the Legislature from passing laws that apply to only one county and can never apply to other counties. That’s exactly what Senate Bill 1750 is because it abolishes the elections administrator office in only Harris County,” he said.

Needless to say, Harris County is a Democratic stronghold. In the 2020 election, President Joe Biden beat his predecessor Donald Trump by 14 points there and netted more than 200,000 votes. By creating election chaos there, Republicans could benefit in statewide elections.

However, Paul Bettencourt (R), the author of the bill, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said elections in Harris County are already chaotic. He pointed to the 2022 midterms, when several polling places ran out of ballot paper.

“The public will be far better served by elected officials that followed the election code in the past, and will do so in future elections, thus regaining confidence of the voters in the elections process, and that’s what SB 1750 is all about,” Bettencourt said.

Menefee strongly disagrees and sees the bill as a targeted effort to mess with Harris County’s elections.

“We can’t and won’t allow legislators in Austin to target us to disrupt our elections and undermine our local officials,” Menefee said. “If people out there want to ignore the constitution and allow far-right lawmakers to go after us in this way, Harris County residents deserve to know. We’ll see what the courts say.”

If the county succeeds, maybe Republican lawmakers can go back to the drawing board and rewrite the legislation so it only applies to counties that rhyme with “Paris Mounty,” were founded in 1836, and encompass an area of 1,729 square miles.

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