Elections 2020Local NewsGOP Chairman Calls for Attorney General to Seize Harris County Mail-in Ballot Applications

West said if Harris County Clerk Hollins does not follow the law and court orders regarding mail-in ballots, the attorney general should confiscate the unsecured printed materials.
September 21, 2020
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Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chairman Allen West has called for the state’s attorney general to seize more than 2 million mail-in ballot applications in Harris County if Clerk Chris Hollins refuses to follow election law and related court orders.

Lt. Col. Allen West was in Houston for a meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee when he made the announcement during a Friday press conference.

Hollins, appointed interim clerk following the sudden resignation of Diane Trautman in May, has been moving forward with a plan to send mail-in ballot applications to every registered voter in Harris County, including to those who are ineligible to use the ballots under Texas Election Code and recent court rulings.

Two lawsuits, one from Attorney General Ken Paxton, were subsequently filed to stop the mailing of the nearly 2.4 million applications, and the Supreme Court of Texas (SCOTX) has twice issued a stay ordering a halt to the Harris County plan.

Additionally, the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) has filed suits in state and federal courts to force a dramatic expansion of mail-in-ballots in the state, but SCOTX ruled against the plaintiffs, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked any expansion until the federal lawsuit is fully resolved.

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“We want [Hollins] to publicly pledge to follow through with the court orders from the Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court to immediately halt any plans to release the millions of ballot applications across Harris County,” said West.

Despite the court rulings, Hollins has continued to prepare materials for the mass mailing of applications, and last week the Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $1.53 million contract with Runbeck Election Services to print and process mail-in ballots for the county.

Chairman West said that in the interest of transparency, Hollins needed to share his election plans with Paxton, the secretary of state, and the general public, but that AG Paxton should be prepared to take drastic action if Hollins refuses to comply.

“If county Clerk Chris Hollins refuses or decides to ignore current law and court orders, Attorney General Paxton needs to order the confiscation, the seizure, of the over 2 million mail-in ballot applications that are sitting at a printing company,” said West. “I don’t think they’re being properly accounted for.”

Friday afternoon, following West’s comments, an appeals court composed of three Democrat judges ruled in favor of Hollins, but the SCOTX stay legally prevents the clerk from moving forward until the high court weighs in.

On Monday morning SCOTX announced that a hearing is scheduled for September 30, and has told Paxton to file his appeal by Tuesday, September 22.

West also noted that Hollins is a senior member of the state Democratic Party and serves as the Vice Chair of Finance for the TDP.

When asked about a timeline for action, West said, “I think the timeline is based upon the actions of Mr. Hollins.”

West also noted that Texans should be concerned about voter suppression since more than 2 million printed applications and mail-in ballots are sitting at the printing company and not properly secured.

“We don’t want to see those ballots getting out into the public.”

Chairman West also said that one of the important aspects of this election cycle is the debate over rule of law.

“Either we stand for respect and regard for the rule of law and ‘law and order,’ or we will have the rule of the mob which is chaos and violence.”

Regarding absentee and any mail-in-ballots received in Harris County, West told The Texan that the state party would have a team in place to monitor the processing of those ballots during the election.  

Arguments presented by Paxton and other opponents of universal vote-by-mail initiatives are that the process circumvents voter identification laws and is “ripe material for voter fraud.”

Earlier this year the Texas secretary of state referred a credible complaint of voter fraud via ballot harvesting to Paxton’soffice for a full investigation. Although primarily Democrats have called for expansion of mail balloting, the referred complaint alleges fraud in a Democrat primary election.

Last week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Election Fraud Prevention Act, a bill that would prohibit ballot harvesting nationwide. The bipartisan measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).

In addition to his comments on Hollins, West also discussed a lawsuit regarding Houston’s cancellation of the Republican Party’s state convention last July.

“That cancellation cost the Republican Party over half a million dollars, and we want Houston First to pay for it,” said West. “Whether the convention should have been cancelled or not is irrelevant at this point. What matters is who has to pay for the damage; we’re going to argue about that in court.”

The RPT chair also called upon the Texas Historical Commission to keep the Alamo Cenotaph in place, although the San Antonio City Council has voted to move the memorial tombstone out of Alamo Plaza.

West noted that more than 90 percent of Texans polled have said they do not favor relocation of the Cenotaph, and that two RPT planks call for preservation of the monument in the historic plaza.

“Recent acts of vandalism have shown that the Cenotaph needs to remain where it is rather than be moved to a less secure location,” said West. “The San Antonio City Council, in a rush to appease the mob, is willing to set a precedent that they can rewrite history.”

“We cannot and should not allow that to happen.”

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Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.