Harris County filed a motion in the Texas Supreme Court Wednesday morning requesting an emergency order to keep Senate Bill 1750 from going into effect. This comes after the Texas Attorney General appealed a Travis County District Court’s decision to issue a temporary court order on the election-related law.
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a press conference held Tuesday afternoon that his office planned to take the case to the state’s highest court to hopefully get a ruling on the matter before September 1 – when the law is set to take effect.
Menefee’s statement on filing the emergency order:
“Senate Bill 1750 violates the Texas Constitution because it abolishes the elections administrator's office in only Harris County and will never apply to another county. The law is set to go into effect in two weeks—we need the Texas Supreme Court to step in and protect the constitution,” said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee. “This is a rare instance where nearly everyone involved agrees that we need the Texas Supreme Court to tell us whether a law violates the constitution. Harris County, our elections administrator, our Democratic elected officials, and our local Republican Party are all asking for an answer to the same question. I hope the Texas Supreme Court tells us whether this law is constitutional.”
Update: August 15, 9:30pm
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to announce the court order and the legal steps the county would have to take once the state filed an appeal to the decision.
Menefee, who was joined by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, corrected information he had tweeted out earlier and said state officials had filed an appeal – but the petition was kicked back as they failed to abide by local law and serve county personnel a certificate of service.
The county attorney said he expects the state to file a new appeal later Tuesday, at which point the court order will be voided, and the case will proceed on appeal. Menefee said his office would file a request for emergency relief with an appellate court to enact a similar order blocking Senate Bill 1750 from taking effect.
Menefee said the attorney’s office hopes to hear back from the Texas Supreme Court before September 1, roughly two weeks away.
“Legislators are supposed to be passing laws that benefit the entire state of Texas,” Menefee said. “They’re sent up there (Austin) to do good for the entire state of Texas and not to pass laws that target only one locale by bringing their personal vendettas with them to Austin.”
Ellis said that in all his 26 years as a state legislator, he has never seen a bill that only applies to one county. In Senate Bill 1750’s text, the law states that it should be enforced in counties with a population over 3.5 million on September 1, 2023. It can only apply to Harris County on that specific day – as no other counties are as big, and the law is only effective on that date.
Garcia called out “one of the authors of the law” likely Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) – although he did not refer to him by name – claiming that this author has been accused of running several elections in counties that were Democratic, Republican or mixed that experienced similar issues than those that occurred during Harris County’s November 2022 election.
He said county officials had been fighting nonstop nonsense from the Texas and Harris County Republican Parties. Both Garcia and Menefee referred to the ongoing election contest case filed by GOP judicial candidate Erin Lunceford as an example of these repeated political attacks against county election operations.
Menefee said that despite many of the Texas Supreme Court justices appointed by Governor Greg Abbott, he is hopeful they will rule objectively and issue the court order.
The county attorney said regardless of how legal proceedings end up, Harris County residents should not be wary of voting as county officials are working together to ensure that no matter who runs the election – it will operate smoothly.
A Travis County District Court ruled in favor of issuing an order to temporarily block a law that would remove Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum just weeks before early voting for the November election begins on Tuesday afternoon.
Harris County filed a lawsuit last month challenging Senate Bill 1750, a law set to go into effect on September 1, that would place the operations of local elections back in the hands of the county clerk and county tax assessor-collector.
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said the county chose to pursue legal action as the law specifically targeted Harris County, attempting to abolish its elections administrator's office – when nine out of the 10 largest counties across Texas use election administrators.
Menefee took to X (formerly Twitter) to announce the court order, describing the ruling as a “win,” but said the case was far from over as the state had already appealed the decision.
This is a developing story and will be updated as needed.
BREAKING: Harris County has won a court order temporarily blocking SB1750, which would remove our Elections Administrator just weeks before Early Voting.— Christian D. Menefee (@CDMenefee) August 15, 2023
The case isn’t over - the state has already appealed. But it’s a win for Harris County and local officials across the state.