Texas election audit encouraged by Trump, then labeled “weak” enters new phase

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The Texas Secretary of State’s Office is now asking four Texas counties to provide information and documentation regarding the 2020 election. It’s the next step in an ongoing election audit for which Republicans, including former President Trump, lobbied, arguing without evidence that there had been widespread electoral fraud.

Although Trump won Texas by 5.5 percentage points in the 2020 election, he asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to verify the results. Instead of a full audit, Abbott ordered an audit of four of the state’s largest counties: Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Harris. Trump called the move “weak,” but the audit effort continued.

Texas Secretary of State John Scott said the first phase of the audit was nearing completion and the counties’ request was the next phase.

Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau correspondent Philip Jankowski told Texas Standard, “The second phase begs the question, ‘What was going on in the first phase? This should happen later in December.

Learn more about the background to this audit and what happens next in the audio player above or in the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

Texas Standard: Trump won Texas. What does this electoral audit consist of?

Philippe Jankowski: It’s a little hard to say, to be honest. I mean, the audit itself is because of Trump. The governor didn’t say that, but I think the timeline makes it clear that Trump goes public with his request, and then a few hours later the secretary of state announces that he’s doing this audit. So I really believe it is.

This audit comes as, it should be mentioned, Abbott is facing attacks from his right flank. [The Texas gubernatorial] elections are approaching next year and he has two opponents who are trying to position himself further to his right. And they saw, maybe they saw, the lack of a full Texas results audit as a place they could go after. [Abbott]. Trump is adding a little – a lot – of ignition to this fire. And so he makes an open request, and so now we have an audit.

Give us some background on the new Texas Secretary of State John Scott and why the previous person in that role left the office.

The former secretary of state was never confirmed by the Texas state legislature, which actually angered the governor. This new Secretary of State did not have to deal with all of this. He was appointed when the legislature was out of session, so no need for a pesky vote. His name is John Scott and he’s involved in some of the Trump stories that have unfolded in some of these lawsuits.

What is phase two of this audit he announced on Friday?

Phase two is essentially a total count of postal ballots and provisional ballots – seems to be the two main thrusts of this second phase. [Secretary of State John Scott has] requested a “comprehensive” amount of information from these four counties. And most focus on mail-in ballots and provisional votes cast in the 2020 election.

Which four counties are we talking about here, and what do you think of the fact that we are talking about these four counties?

We’re talking about Collin County, which is North Dallas; Dallas County; Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located; and, of course, Harris County, the largest county in the state. So we’re looking at urban counties versus the great state, and as you know, those counties tend to vote more Democrats; the most populous counties tend to do so. And so that seems to be sort of, well, maybe not causation but, at least, a correlation between how these counties voted and which ones are scrutinized.

How did local election officials respond to this audit and request for more detailed information?

I’m not sure yet. As I said, this announcement was made late Friday. So many of them may have already packed their bags and headed home for the weekend. And maybe it’s high on their to-do list this Monday morning, but it’s not clear at this time.

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