Business law

Texas closes the Harris County Elections office in Houston


Election administration offices in Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, are scheduled to close soon after a challenge from state Republicans.
Veronica J Cardenas/Reuters

  • Harris County, which includes Houston, must close its elections administration office by Friday.
  • The shutdown comes less than two months before Houston holds its mayoral elections.
  • Losing Republican candidates blamed the Harris County Elections Office for their losses in 2022.

In less than two months, Houstonians will start voting to elect their new mayor. But this election will no longer take place under the authority of Harris County election officials.

Texas will close its election office Democratic-majority Harris County On Friday, after the state Supreme Court denied an emergency injunction regarding A law passed by Republican leaders in the state This requires Texas counties with a population of 3.5 million or more people to eliminate county election officials.

Harris County, home to Houston and its current mayor, Sylvester Turner, a Democrat The only province In the state with a population of more than 3.5 million people.

Republicans in Texas are battling Democrat-led cities

Abolishing the Harris County elections office is one of a series of Republican efforts widely viewed as attempts to limit the power of Democratic-led cities in the state.

State lawmakers passed a law championed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year that bars cities from adopting ordinances that override laws set by the state. New law even Rescinded ordinances across Texas mandating water blackouts For construction workers, labor rights advocates have called it “the law that kills.”

While he was a state county judge The bill was deemed unconstitutional On Wednesday, the attorney general’s office appealed the decision. This law will also go into effect on Friday.

Harris County Elections office closing

Lawmakers passed a bill to abolish the Harris County Elections Office after as-yet-unsubstantiated claims by losing Republican candidates that administrative issues at the office affected the results of the November 2022 general election. The Texas Tribune reported.

While Harris County voting centers experienced shortages of ballots for short periods of time, problems with voting machines, and long wait times, an investigation was conducted by Houston Public Media It was revealed that the losing candidates overestimated the effects of these administrative problems and that there was no impact on the election results. Their investigation also showed that similar past cases had occurred under Democratic and Republican leadership.

The state Supreme Court will still hear the county’s appeal of the bill, officially known as SB 1750, on Nov. 28, weeks after the 2023 election.

Christian Menifee, Harris County District Attorney Houston told the public media The law is unconstitutional under the Texas Constitution because it only affects one county, but he acknowledged that the challenge is unlikely to succeed.

“I don’t think it would be wise to abolish the position and then try to recreate it later, without the Texas Supreme Court telling us that the Legislators’ Act violates the Constitution and should not be rewritten in any way, which is what I would like to do.” “Say, given their decision today, you’re unlikely to see the court say that,” Menefee told Houston Public Media, referring to the court’s decision.

The Texas Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

Houston is electing a mayor for the first time in eight years with Turner reaching his term limit. There are 14 candidates, but polls show a close race between two Democrats: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and State Sen. John Whitmer.


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