Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee announced Wednesday that the county is suing the state of Texas over bills passed this session that specifically target Harris County elections.
Senate Bill 1750, passed in both chambers of the state legislature this week, would eliminate the position of Harris County Elections Administrator, passing the oversight of local elections to the county’s elected Tax-Assessor Collector and County Clerk.
Nine of the 10 largest counties in Texas currently have Elections Administrators. The bill would only abolish the position in Harris County. The office has been held by Clifford Tatum since August 2022.
The Harris County Republican Party applauded the passage of the bill in an emailed statement, saying the responsibility of overseeing local elections "should never have been taken away from elected officials in the first place."
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee discuss plans for legal action on Houston Matters (May 26, 2023)
However, Senate Bill 1933, which also passed both chambers, would allow the state to file a lawsuit to remove the locally elected Tax-Assessor Collector and County Clerk from office.
"Under Senate Bill 1933, the Secretary of State is able to initiate lawsuits to remove only two elected officials from office in the entire state of Texas, and that’s the Harris County Clerk and the Harris County Tax-Assessor Collector,” said Menefee. "In this big state that we live in, only 2 elected officials are impacted by this, both Black women."
Menefee said the targeting of one county by state legislation is against Texas's Constitution.
"The Texas Constitution is clear. The legislature can't pass laws that target just one city or just one county," Menefee said. "We don't want a lawmaker from Oldham County traveling out to Austin to pass a law that only impacts Harris County but doesn't impact his constituents so he can throw red meat to his base for political points."
Both Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo also said the bills are politically motivated. Ellis characterized their passage as "a hit job against the largest blue county in Texas."
Menefee said the county will file a lawsuit against the state as soon as Governor Abbott signs the bills into law. November's elections, including the race for Houston's next mayor, will be overseen by Harris County Clerk, Teneshia Hudspeth.