In a statement to the Texas Tribune Wednesday, Trump said the four county audit wasn’t nearly comprehensive enough to meet his demand, and that it would be “a big mistake for Texas” if the Legislature didn’t pass House Bill 16 proposed by state Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands), which would allow state and county political party chairs to request recounts of state election results for the 2020 election and beyond.
“By allowing the Democrats to do what they do, it will make it much harder for the Governor and other Republicans to win election in 2022 and into the future. Texas is a much redder state than anyone knows, but this is the way to make sure it turns blue,” Trump told the Tribune.
Trump publicly asked Abbott last week to authorize a full audit of the 2020 election in Texas, which Trump won by six points. Hours later, the Secretary of State’s office within Abbott’s executive branch announced a “full forensic audit” of the election results in the state’s “two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties — Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin.” It’s a characterization some quibbled with given that even though Tarrant County has historically leaned red, a majority of residents voted for President Joe Biden.
Months after the 2020 election, there’s been zero evidence uncovered of any significant voter fraud in Texas or elsewhere. But Trump continues to insist on pressuring states to authorize election audits, even after the highest profile of such efforts in Arizona’s Maricopa County cost millions of dollars, and eventually revealed that even fewer county residents had voted for Trump than the pre-audit vote tally showed.
The Secretary of State’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Houston Press about just how much its announced audit would cost and how much funding the office would require the Legislature to approve.
The executive agency office is currently without a leader — former Secretary of State Ruth Hughes was effectively forced to resign because the Texas Senate refused to approve her renomination, a move that came after one of Hughes’ deputies called Texas’ 2020 election “smooth and secure” when asked to weigh in by state lawmakers.
The original audit announcement didn’t come with any specifics, and despite Abbott’s insistence on Fox News last weekend that the audit had actually been underway for months, officials in Harris, Tarrant and Dallas counties said they were blindsided when the audit was announced. Tuesday night, the Secretary of State’s office released more information about a two-pronged audit process for the four counties in question.
According to the Secretary of State’s office, the first phase of its “audit” includes tasks such as security checks of voting machines and partial hand recounts of ballots, all of which are things county elections offices were already required to do following the past election by existing state law. The audit’s second phase, scheduled to start in spring 2022, would include further testing of voting machines, analyzing chain of custody records for ballot boxes and forms related to mail ballots, among other items.
“After a thorough examination of the above mentioned records and material in each county, irregularities or deviations from election administration procedures that may have affected the accuracy of the electronic voting system ballot count could trigger a full manual recount of ballots in the affected precincts or polling locations,” the office’s audit outline read.
After reading the outline of what each phase of the state's audit entails, it’s pretty clear now that when Abbott told Fox News the Texas audit was already underway, he was probably talking about those post-election checks and safeguards that the counties had already completed. Based on Trump’s latest statement, it seems like he isn’t buying Abbott’s attempt to get partial credit for work the state had already completed.