The election administrator’s office in Texas’ most populous county – Harris County, which is home to Houston – has been dismantled to comply with a new state law passed by Republican legislators that officially takes effect Friday.
The law, known as SB 1750, shifts responsibility for elections and voter registration to the county clerk and the county tax assessor-collector. Critics have cast the measure, along with a second newly enacted law, as a power grab by Texas’ GOP-led legislature to disrupt how elections are run in an increasingly blue bastion of this traditionally red state.
The elimination of the election administrator’s position comes just weeks before the start of early voting in the race for Houston mayor and other local offices, and it marks one of several efforts by Republicans around the country to exert more control over election administration ahead of 2024’s consequential presidential and congressional contests.
A separate state law – known as SB 1933 and also passed this year – authorizes the Texas secretary of state, who is appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, to order “administrative oversight” of a county elections office, if complaints are filed and there’s reason to believe there’s a recurring pattern of problems with election administration.
SB 1750 and SB 1933 apply to counties with a population of more than 3.5 million and 4 million people, respectively – criteria met only by Harris County.