WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, July 6, Harris County, Texas filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas, Texas Attorney General John Scott (R) and Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson (R) challenging a new law that targets Harris County election administration.
The challenged law, Senate Bill 1750, abolishes the appointed election administrator position within Harris County and gives responsibilities back to the county clerk and county tax assessor, both of whom are elected officials. The plaintiff argues that the law specifically targets Harris County, the state’s most populous county and home to Houston: “The Legislature prohibits counties with a population of 3.5 million or greater—a category that describes Harris County alone—from creating the office of elections administrator.”
In its lawsuit, Harris County alleges that S.B. 1750 violates the Texas Constitution — which prohibits the Legislature from passing certain special or local laws — by specifically targeting Harris County. “The Texas Constitution’s plain text prohibits this sort of legislative meddling in a single county’s local affairs. Harris County therefore requests that this Court declare that SB1750 violates the Texas Constitution and enjoin state officials from enforcing it,” the complaint reads. Harris County requests that the court block the enforcement of S.B. 1750 and declare it in violation of the Texas Constitution.
S.B. 1750 is one of several laws passed by the Texas Legislature to target Harris County. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) also recently signed Senate Bill 1933, which would allow the secretary of state to essentially take over all aspects of Harris County (and only Harris County) elections if someone involved in an election, like a candidate or election official, lodges a complaint against the county. While this law has not yet been challenged in court, it could drastically impact election administration.
Today’s lawsuit is part of ongoing backlash against Republican-sponsored power grabs wherein Republican legislators directly target more populous and Democratic-leaning cities within their state. Across the country, red states have targeted their own Democratic strongholds, with Tennessee targeting Nashville’s Davidson County, Florida meddling with the prosecutorial discretion of elected Democratic district attorneys and Mississippi creating an unelected court system in Jackson, the state capital. All of these cities are pushing back against these undemocratic power grabs with crucial ongoing lawsuits.