FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2020
I have asked TX Secretary of State and Attorney General to review any alternative to this action by Clerk Hollins
(UPDATED) Houston, TX - With the announcement by Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins (D-Harris County) that Harris County will be sending absentee ballot by mail applications to all 2.37 million registered voters, regardless of their eligibility to vote by mail or if they have requested one, the administration of the 2020 election will be the most expensive in Harris County's history. The Commissioner’s Court on a 3-2 vote has already approved $29.1 million, and up to 12,000 employees, for the election, nearly 7 times the cost of administering the 2016 Presidential Election in Harris County, per the Houston Chronicle of only $4.1 million.
Harris County is apparently using money under the Federal CARES Act to pay for these increased costs in the 2020 election cycle.
"Just because you can spend 'Free Federal Money' doesn't mean that you should because it is all taxpayer monies," said Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston). "Regardless of COVID-19 status, this type of massive election spending is not sustainable without raising the property tax rate for the next set of elections in 2022 and beyond. However an even greater concern is if this mailing is even legal under current Texas election laws."
Additionally, it should be noted that Clerk Hollins plans to mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in Harris County, regardless if they have asked for it or not, and despite their eligibility to actually vote by mail. Clerk Hollins also announced the creation of additional election day polling locations as well as drive through polling locations, and a massive increase in employee staff, up to 12,000, the vast majority of whom will have no previous election experience and limited time in training prior to the November election.
Commissioner Steve Radack (R-Harris County) during the Commissioner's Court debate, called the placement of these added polling locations "disturbing". As noted by the Texan, "According to Hollins, Precinct 1 has approximately 620,000 voters and will have 5 drive-thru locations, 37 Early Voting locations, and 236 Election Day polling sites. Meanwhile, Precinct 4 has 670,000 voters but only 2 drive-thru locations, 24 Early Voting locations, and 187 Election Day polling sites." This is clearly preferential numerical treatment of one County Commissioner precinct over another.
Finally, Clerk Hollins has stated that his office is not going to check the responses to the expanded absentee ballot by mail applications. "Is not mailing 2.37 million absentee ballot by mail applications an open invitation to vote harvesters and fraud?" stated Senator Bettencourt. “I have asked the Texas Secretary of State’s office and the Office of Attorney General to suggest reviewing any alternatives to this action by Harris County Clerk Hollins,” he concluded.
Senator Bettencourt expects a response will be forthcoming and regardless will be crafting legislation on voter issues in the next legislative session in 2021.