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Republican Mike May this week filed what’s known as an election contest with the Texas secretary of state’s office, citing reports of scattered paper ballot shortages at “numerous” polling places on Election Day. May lost to incumbent Democrat Jon Rosenthal by more than 6,000 votes in his bid to represent House District 135 in the Houston area.
The secretary of state’s office on Tuesday delivered May’s petition to House Speaker Dade Phelan, who can refer the contest to a committee for investigation and appoint another member of the House as a “master” to oversee discovery and evidence related to the contested election. If they side with May and void the results, another election would be required to decide the district’s representative. The House can also toss the contest by declaring it “frivolous.”
Election Day issues once again pushed Harris County’s election officials back under scrutiny, including from the state’s Republican leadership. Voting in Harris County was extended by court order for an extra hour after about a dozen polling places were delayed in opening. The county’s elections administrator Clifford Tatum has also acknowledged issues with insufficient paper ballots at some polling places, though he said election staff was dispatched to deliver additional ballots.
The fumbles prompted a lawsuit by the Harris County GOP, which alleged voters were disenfranchised by the paper shortages. The Harris County district attorney has since launched an investigation into allegations of “irregularities.” The Texas Election Code includes criminal penalties for various violations, including illegal voting, the unsolicited distribution of mail-in ballot applications by local election officials and the failure to distribute election supplies.
In his petition, May argued the results of the election were not the “true outcome” because election officials “prevented eligible voters from voting.” May did not immediately return a request for comment.
On Friday, Rosenthal’s camp framed May’s election contest as part of a national trend to “deny the outcome of an election when you lose.”
“This race demonstrated one of the largest percentage point differences in Harris County, it wasn’t even close,” Rosenthal’s campaign manager, Bailey Stober, said in a statement. “The opposition presented himself and his positions and was rejected by voters overwhelmingly. That is how democracy works.”
The statement came soon after Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee criticized the contest as an effort to “call into question the 2022 election in Harris County and lay the groundwork to force a redo.”
It’s unclear how Phelan will handle the contest. His office declined to comment Friday. But Menefee said he was hopeful that Phelan would throw out the challenge.
“And I trust that he will ensure a fair process before impartial legislators, without interference from the state leaders and other elected officials who have a history of making baseless claims against Harris County elections,” Menefee said.
The House took on a similar exercise in 2011 following a challenge by Travis County Republican Dan Neil, who, after a recount, lost to state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, by 12 votes. The House eventually upheld Howard’s win. She remains in the Texas Legislature.
Up till then, the Legislature had seen 113 election contests since 1846, according to the Texas Legislative Council, an in-house legal and research arm of the Texas Legislature. The losing party, however, had not managed to turn the outcome of the election at least in the last 30 years. In the one case in which the House ordered a new election in 1981, the winner of the initial contest was again elected.
Harris County, the state’s largest, has in recent years been ground zero for partisan battles over election administration. Since losing control of the county, Republicans have regularly challenged new voting initiatives like the creation of countywide voting that allows voters to cast ballots at any polling place on Election Day as well as the county’s creation of an elections administrators office.
The county also drew the ire of state Republicans who, in sweeping legislation passed in 2021, banned initiatives it championed in the first major election during the pandemic — 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting. The county said those voting methods were disproportionately used by voters of color.
Harris County will already be the subject of a full post-election audit by the state. The secretary of state’s office previously selected the county for review as part of a new audit process put in place by the Republican legislation.
Disclosure: Texas Secretary of State has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/12/02/texas-house-election-challenge/.
The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
GOP judges 'dragged Judge Cannon through the mud' — and upheld the law she flouted: Watergate prosecutor
On Friday's edition of MSNBC's "The ReidOut," former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks analyzed the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit's decision ending the special master review of documents seized by the FBI from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club in Palm Beach, Florida.
The decision was not just a blow to Trump, said Wine-Banks, but also to District Judge Aileen Cannon herself, a Trump appointee who went out on a limb to order the review against all precedent, only to be unanimously dismissed by a panel of three deeply conservative Republican-appointed judges, including two other Trump appointees.
"What did you make of that ruling?" asked anchor Joy Reid.
"Everything in the opinion — and it's a per curiam, which means all three judges agreed to everything in it, it's not signed by any one in particular. And that includes the Chief [Judge] of the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Pryor, who is from one of the most conservative backgrounds ever. All three are Republican appointees. And they all basically said the law is the law, and we are sticking with the law. They said none of the things that the judge did, Judge Cannon, have any relevance to the cases that we have ever seen before. And it would entitle every single person who has ever had a search to do the same thing, because we cannot carve out just for one person, a man named Donald Trump. He does not get anything special."
The decision, Wine-Banks concluded, was "really a victory for our system of justice, for the rule of law."
"It was a very well-written opinion," she said. "And it ... dragged Judge Cannon through the mud. It really slapped her down. At every opportunity they could, they just made it clear that she was completely off the mark."
Jill Wine-Banks says Republican judges "slapped down" Aileen Cannon www.youtube.com
Hawley issued this statement attacking Biden and fellow Republicans who voted for the settlement.
“Today the Senate had the chance to stand up for railroad workers who frequently risk their lives and health on the job, just trying to support their families. Instead, the Senate sided with Joe Biden. Today was a chance for Republicans to stand up for working people and against the DC establishment. They missed it. But make no mistake, the people who put on overalls or pick up a shovel or stand on the assembly line every day are worth fighting for. And the Republican Party will have no future without them.”
On its face, the opposition by Hawley and others complaining of inadequate sick leave for rail workers seemed plausible enough. But in Hawley’s case, it belied a long history of opposing the interests of working-class people while pretending to care about them.
It’s not certain Hawley even owned overalls while growing up outside Kansas City as a wealthy banker’s son educated in exclusive private schools. Hawley often misremembers that as the life of a country boy raised on a farm in the heartland, but he may have outdone himself this time as a champion of people he couldn’t care less about.
His actual record on the subject is unambiguous.
Hawley’s first major political backer was David Humphreys, a Joplin, Mo. businessman who was the highest-profile advocate of “right to work” laws in Missouri that would have banned mandatory union membership. He gave at least $3 million to Hawley’s 2016 campaign for state attorney general and another $1 million for his successful bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Hawley supported the right-to-work effort as a candidate until it was rejected in August 2018 by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin in Missouri. At that point, he tried to soften that stance belatedly, as reported by the Springfield News-Leader.
Hawley has been even more outspoken as an opponent of working people in his opposition to minimum-wage increases. Here’s how the Missouri Independent reported on that:
“In 2018, then-Attorney General Hawley opposed Proposition B, a modest proposal to gradually increase the minimum wage by eighty-five cents a year. He claimed that it would be out of the mainstream, out of step with other states, and “raising the minimum wage [too] quickly. Hawley was out of touch with the people he represents. In fact, then Proposition B received 250,000 more votes than he did in his 2018 election.”
Fighting the minimum wage in his home state was hardly the only instance in which Hawley attacked the interests of working people. He has long been a vociferous opponent of the Affordable Care Act, including having joined a national lawsuit as attorney general to oppose coverage for pre-existing conditions.
But in vintage Hawley style, he has postured in the past year as favoring a $15 minimum wage for billion-dollar companies. The idea, presented in cooperation with Sen. Bernie Sanders, was benign on its face, but Hawley’s intentions were to connect it politically with his signature issue of opposing Big Tech, which the New Republic aptly described as a fake war. Here’s a telling passage:
“Fusing the false populism of Trumpism with a Republican establishment that has never seen a tax cut it doesn’t like, Hawley’s proposed solutions to our Big Tech problem are lacking. He says nothing about strengthening unions or raising corporate tax rates. He says little about actually breaking up companies or using the power of the Department of Justice and regulatory agencies to check tech behavior. He seems to want it both ways, aspiring to a more activist, trust-busting government while never actually promising substantive interventions, since he must maintain his congenital opposition to “big government.”
Hawley might present a stern façade as an enemy of giant corporate interests. But observers would do well to remember the Hawley they saw with their eyes: An insurrectionist senator who raised his fist to rile up members of the MAGA mob only to scurry like a scared chipmunk when they showed up in the Capitol.