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Texas Republicans propose audit of Democrat-heavy counties

The Hill logo The Hill 7/21/2021 Reid Wilson
text, whiteboard: Texas Republicans┬ápropose audit of Democrat-heavy counties © Getty Images Texas Republicans┬ápropose audit of Democrat-heavy counties

A Texas Republican who tried to void more than 125,000 legally cast ballots in last year's election has introduced legislation in the state House of Representatives that would force a forensic audit of the 2020 election results in the state's largest counties.

State Rep. Steve Toth (R) has introduced legislation along with 15 other Republicans that would require Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) to hire an outside expert to conduct a forensic audit of counties with populations greater than 415,000.

The bill would order an audit of every precinct in those large counties. It would require Texas leaders to submit a report by next year outlining issues with the balloting or counting process.

Among the bill's co-sponsors are Rep. Briscoe Cain (R), the head of the state House Elections Committee and author of a sweeping overhaul of election rules pending before the state House; state Rep. Tom Oliverson (R), vice chairman of the House Republican Caucus; and Jake Ellzey (R), one of the finalists to replace the late Rep. Ron Wright (R) in the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election to take place next week.

Texas has 13 counties with populations greater than 415,000 residents. President Biden won 10 of them, though former President Trump carried Texas's 38 electoral votes by a nearly 6-point margin.

"We need a forensic audit to uncover all the voter fraud," Toth said in a statement. "Texans want to know more about the claims of voter fraud and deserve to have confidence in their elections."

Toth did not address the root of those claims of voter fraud, many of which have come from Republicans and from Trump himself, none of whom have offered evidence of widespread voter fraud or election malfeasance.

Attorney General Ken Paxton's (R) office says it is in the process of prosecuting 43 individuals for a combined 510 cases of alleged voter or election fraud. Those cases are spread over multiple elections.

The calls for a forensic audit are unlikely to advance through a special session in Austin that is already consumed by the drama of a group of House Democrats who have escaped to Washington to prevent votes on an omnibus overhaul of state election law they say would hinder the right of minorities and low-income residents to vote.

But it is part of a growing trend of Republican states heeding Trump's insistence that they find evidence that he won an election he lost. Arizona's Republican-led state Senate is set to begin a new recount of votes cast in Maricopa County, after they hired an outside firm with no election auditing experience to conduct an initial count. Republican legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and elsewhere are calling for forensic audits in other states Trump lost last year.

Both Toth and Paxton have dabbled in election conspiracy theories advanced by Trump, whose attorneys and advocates have failed repeatedly to provide any evidence of the fraud or wrongdoing he has so often alleged.

In November, Toth joined a conservative activist in suing to throw out more than 125,000 ballots cast at drive-through voting locations in Harris County, alleging the county clerk exceeded his authority by setting up stations that were not explicitly permitted by state law. The Texas Supreme Court ruled against Toth in the days before November's general election.

Paxton appeared and spoke at the Jan, 6 "Stop the Steal" rally that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He has refused to release details of his travel, including whether taxpayers footed the bill for the trip, to local media.

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