“[M]y signature of approval was required to send this critical funding to the Secretary of State’s office so they can conduct the important work of making certain every vote counts,” said Bonnen. “Texas continues to stand up for the integrity of our elections!”
Assistant Secretary of State for Communications Sam Taylor confirmed Bonnen’s announcement in a statement provided to The Texan.
“We thank Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, Speaker Phelan, Senator Nelson and Representative Bonnen for approving critical funds to support the Texas Secretary of State’s Forensic Audit Division,” said Taylor.
The funneling of money is the latest in a political squabble over election audits in Texas.
Former President Donald Trump called on Gov. Greg Abbott to use his authority to place the policy in question before lawmakers while they were convened in a special session earlier this year, but Abbott never acquiesced.
Instead, the office of the secretary of state — a position which had been vacant at the time but is now filled by former Abbott aide John Scott — announced that it was in the process of conducting a smaller-scale audit of the 2020 general election in the two most populous Democratic and Republican counties.
The measure from Abbott’s office faced scrutiny from both the left — who argue an audit is unnecessary and that it is dangerous to question the legitimacy of elections — and the right — who say that the scale of the audit is not enough.
Even Republicans in the Texas Senate thought that a broader audit was necessary. Despite not being added to the special session agenda, the upper chamber approved legislation that would enact a sweeping evaluation of the 2020 general election results across Texas.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a campaign email that he “requested a 4th Special Session to address [restoring the penalty for illegal voting that had been reduced in the major election bill], as well as the Forensic Audit Bill.”
Patrick did not go so far as to blame the governor for failing to add the audit to the special session, directing his attack on House Speaker Dade Phelan instead.
“The Senate passed the Forensic Audit Bill twice, but the Speaker refused to bring it to the floor, along with several other issues,” said Patrick.
The secretary of state’s office said that the new funds being provided to them will be used to “complete our ongoing full forensic audit of the 2020 General Election and conduct subsequent audits as required by SB 1.”
More specifically, Taylor said that toward that end the money will be used “to dedicate additional staff to oversee audit activities, including: verifying counties’ removal of ineligible voters from the rolls, meticulously reviewing each county’s election materials for our comprehensive document examination, and ensuring compliance with state and federal election laws.”
“These resources are essential for maintaining the integrity of Texas elections and identifying issues that must be fixed in order to restore voters’ confidence in our state’s election systems,” said Taylor.
Abbott sent a letter to the top officials in the Legislative Budget Board — Patrick, Phelan, Bonnen, and Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) — dated November 18 requesting them to “provide $4 million to the SOS in order to establish and Election Audit Division.”
“Election integrity is a core tenet of any healthy and successful democracy,” said Abbott. “The people of Texas must have trust and confidence in the election process as well as in the outcomes of our elections.”
The lawmakers agreed to that request in a letter sent to the governor in response on Friday, November 19.
According to the letter, the $4 million in general revenue funds will be transferred to the secretary of state from money that was originally appropriated for “Correctional Security Operations.”
Abbott released a statement about the new funds later Friday afternoon, reiterating the statement he made in his Thursday letter to the lawmakers.
Update: This article was updated with a statement from the office of the secretary of state and copies of the letters sent between Abbott and the lawmakers.
Update: This article was updated with reference to a statement from Abbott.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.