If state Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) has his way, Texas will be the next red state that reevaluates the 2020 presidential election through a top-to-bottom “forensic audit” of the state’s elections results in Texas' biggest counties.
Toth’s proposed audit bill, House Bill 241, is the latest evidence that there are still a disconcertingly large number of conservatives in this state and country that think the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, and who have been led to believe voter fraud is rampant across the country.
Even in states like Texas where Trump won decisively.
Despite the fact that Texas’ own Republican election overseer, former Secretary of State Ruth Hughes, told the Legislature that the state’s 2020 elections were safe, secure and devoid of any significant fraud, Toth still believes Texas needs third party investigators to scour the voting records of Texas’ 13 most populous counties to suss out any teensy bit of fraudulent voting activity that may have somehow fallen through the cracks.
That would put Texas in the totally-not-embarrassing company of Arizona, another conservative stronghold whose Maricopa County GOP has been in the throes of a months-long election audit following President Joe Biden’s electoral upset in the state. The Maricopa County audit is being led by a company called Cyber Ninjas that’s been — no joke — looking for sources of bamboo in state ballots that conspiracy theorists claim could be evidence of fraudulent ballots that were shipped in from China.
While Toth hasn’t brought up Cyber Ninjas or bamboo ballots, he’s still convinced something fishy may have been afoot in Texas’ 2020 elections that only an independent audit can uncover.
“We need a forensic audit to uncover all the voter fraud,” Toth said in a statement touting his bill, which he’s named The Texas Voter Confidence Act. He said the bill is a product of his meetings with constituents across his district in South Montgomery County, who apparently have been clamoring for a closer look at Texas election returns.
“Texans want to know more about the claims of voter fraud and deserve to have confidence in their elections,” Toth’s statement continued.
Multiple members from state Rep. Toth’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Houston Press on Toth’s latest bill.
Toth did not mention that the source of the rampant lack of confidence in the 2020 election can be directly traced to Trump’s repeated, unfounded claims that voter fraud cost him the election, and to Republicans across the country who either ignored or amplified Trump’s false rhetoric about the supposedly rigged election (including Toth’s fellow Texan Attorney General Ken Paxton, who tried and failed to get the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the election results in the swing states that cost Trump reelection).
In his recently filed House Bill 241, Toth argues that an independent investigation into the 2020 election results in all Texas counties with populations of 415,000 or more is necessary. That would obviously include Harris County, which like eight of the other top 13 counties in the state voted in favor of President Joe Biden. Only four of the counties that would be included in Toth’s proposed audit voted in Trump’s favor: Collin, Denton, Montgomery and Brazoria counties.
Toth’s election audit bill is the latest right-wing proposal from the Montgomery County lawmaker. During the Legislature’s regular session, Toth was the architect of the House’s bill to ban so-called “critical race theory” from Texas classrooms, legislation designed to place strict limits on what Texas teachers can and can’t say about the role racism plays in Texas and American history. His House bill was defeated by a procedural maneuver from state Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock), but was ultimately saved in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s Republican-led Senate through some last minute rule twisting.
Pushing another right-wing priority, Toth authored a bill during the regular session that would have made it illegal for Texas doctors to give transgender children gender affirming healthcare, claiming that doing so would amount to child abuse and would warrant the removal of a doctor’s medical license. Toth also supported a regular session bill that would have banned transgender Texans from competing on the school teams that align with their gender identity. Both measures died during the regular session, but a new bill on the transgender athlete issue was passed by the Senate recently.
Toth’s effort to re-litigate the 2020 presidential election in the Lone Star State has one prominent local backer: Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, a diehard conservative and longtime Trump supporter.
"Representative Toth’s proposed bill is timely and necessary with a view to exposing any instances of fraud during the 2020 election and reassuring Texas voters that their votes were accurately counted," said Keough in a statement backing up his fellow Republican election skeptic. "I fully support passage of this bill and look forward to the results of the audit."
Like all of the bills filed so far during this special legislative session, Toth’s election audit legislation stands next to no chance of being signed into law any time soon given the sizable number of Texas House Democrats who remain out of state in Washington, D.C., having flown from Austin in protest of Republican election reforms and to prevent the House from having the two-thirds majority of members it needs to conduct business as dictated by the state constitution.
But once the House Democrats return to town, whenever that may be, Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed he’ll call yet another special session to try once more to force through conservative priorities like adding new election restrictions, forbidding “social media censorship” of right-wing Texans and legislating the sports teams on which transgender Texans can play.
An election audit like the one Toth has proposed seems a bit out there even for this current Legislature, which during its regular session passed a plethora of hard-right bills like obliterating all handgun permit requirements and banning abortions as soon as a fetal “heartbeat” is detected. In special sessions, legislators can only work on topics put on the agenda by the governor, but Toth’s bill seemingly would fit into Abbott’s listed priority of “election integrity” legislation.
Abbott has recently made a habit of eagerly embracing Trump at every opportunity ahead of his 2022 reelection race to stay in the Governor’s Mansion. He invited the former president to tour the Texas-Mexico border in light of Abbott’s vow to restart construction on Trump’s failed border wall project, and has been trumpeting his reelection endorsement from Trump on every Fox News show that will have him as a guest.
There’s no way a Texan election audit effort gets off the ground without Abbott’s approval, but with multiple right-wing challengers flanking him in the Republican primary, Abbott might consider Toth’s proposed audit yet another politically savvy favor to Trump in hopes of further ingratiating himself with the still bitter former president and his avid Texan supporters.
Toth's election audit bill:
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