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Gov. Abbott approves $4 million to create 'election audit division'

Voters go to the polls at the Williamson County Jester Annex on Election Day 2020.
Julia Reihs
Voters go to the polls at the Williamson County Jester Annex on Election Day 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that he has approved $4 million for the Texas secretary of state's office to create an "election audit division.”

"Ensuring the integrity of our elections is critical to our democracy,” he said in a statement, “and the Texas Secretary of State's office deserves the resources and support needed to thoroughly complete this ongoing task.”

GOP leaders in the Legislature signed off on the money, according to the statement.

In September, the secretary of state’s office announced it would be conducting audits of the 2020 election in four counties — Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant.

The office later said the purpose of the audits was to “ensure all Texas voters can have confidence in the elections systems in our state, and to address any outstanding issues county election officials may face that undermines the integrity of our elections.”

There is no evidence of any widespread issues during last year’s election. During hearings in the Texas Legislature this year, state election officials, in fact, said elections were “smooth and secure.”

Last month, Abbott appointed John Scott to be Texas' new secretary of state. Scott, who provided legal support to Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn 2020 election results in Pennsylvania, will need to be confirmed by the state Senate. Because the governor announced the appointment after the final special legislative session, he likely won’t go before that body until 2023.

Scott told The Texas Tribune the audits currently being conducted by his office are his top priority and that he didn’t want “to color” them as an attempt find fraud in the state’s elections.

“I want them to look at the evidence or the facts and determine whether there was any evidence of that, and that’s really it,” he told the Tribune.

Stephanie Gómez, the associate director of Common Cause Texas, criticized states that have responded to false claims of widespread election fraud by launching state audits.

“Wisconsin taxpayers are spending almost $700,000,” she said. “Arizona taxpayers are on the hook for millions. Now, using emergency powers, Governor Abbott has got Texas taxpayers on the hook for $4 million more.”

In his statement Friday, Abbott said Texans “must have trust and confidence in the election process, as well as the outcomes of our elections, which is why the state of Texas will transfer funding needed so that the Texas Secretary of State can create a division dedicated entirely to this important issue."

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Ashley Lopez joined KUT in January 2016.