Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) wants the state legislature to take up a bill that would allow for audits of the 2020 election once lawmakers reconvene for their third special session in a few weeks.
According to the Houston Chronicle, during a telephone town hall Monday evening, Patrick told supporters that an election audit bill is one of his priorities for the upcoming legislative session. As lieutenant governor, Patrick presides over the Senate, and during the last session, he helped fast-track the bill, which failed to advance before the close of the legislature's second special session this year.
Patrick and other Republican supporters of the audit legislation hope to pass it during the third special session.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), would allow candidates, local party chairs, and election judges to request "an explanation and supporting documentation" if they suspect a local election official violated the law or if they want more information about alleged irregularities in precinct-level election results. If the person making a complaint is "not satisfied with the explanation and supporting documentation," he or she may request an audit of the results from the Texas secretary of state.
The audits would be conducted by an "election review advisory committee" appointed by county clerks that would comprise equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. Nominees for the committee would be submitted by the county political parties.
"This bill, SB 97, is about election irregularities, giving a chance for the people involved to ask questions," Bettencourt said last week before the close of the legislative session. "This is not about anything else except what gets measured gets fixed because if we know why they've had that discrepancy, we can fix the problem in the future."
Democrats are opposed to the legislation and have unfavorably compared it to the audit effort in Arizona, which has been plagued by controversy and delays and criticized by local GOP officials who have defended their handling of the election. They have also expressed concerns that the Texas bill would allow for frivolous requests for election audits.
"Your bill raises some concerns that we might have people who have not the greatest of motivations ... just create harassing requests for audits," said state Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) last week.
Bettencourt countered that his bill will enable anyone making allegations of voting irregularities to have a civil remedy for their claims to be investigated. Currently, state officials can only review elections if there are criminal charges. Unlike Arizona, the audits would not be conducted by a third-party private company.
While former President Donald Trump made numerous unproven claims that the 2020 presidential elections in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and other states where he lost to Joe Biden were illegitimate, he won in Texas and has never claimed fraud took place there.
Nevertheless, state Republicans have demanded 2020 election audits in several of Texas' largest counties where Biden defeated Trump, including Dallas and Tarrant Counties.
Officials in Texas have previously described the 2020 election as "smooth and secure." According to the state attorney general's office, there are currently 510 pending prosecutions of voter fraud offenses against 43 defendants. Only two of those cases are related to the 2020 presidential election in Texas, the Dallas News reported in June.