Election

Gov. Abbott Holds Burning Cash in Billboard Campaign Calling to End 'Sham' Audit

Republicans for Voting Rights
Some Republicans aren't too pleased with Gov. Greg Abbott's audits.
First, they came for former President Donald Trump. Now, that same group of pro-voting rights Republicans is attacking another politician via billboard: Gov. Greg Abbott.

Last week, the Republicans for Voting Rights (RVR) initiative launched a billboard campaign to remind the governor that there’s no need for an audit of the 2020 election. The former president won the Lone Star State by a comfortable margin, after all.

Still, Trump asked for one last September, and hours later, he received.

Commuters in Dallas-Fort Worth can catch a glimpse of the signs, which feature a beaming Abbott holding a flaming stack of cash. “STOP WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY,” they read. “GOV. ABBOTT, END THE SHAM AUDIT.”

Texas ran a good election that its leaders should be proud of, and they should stand by the results, said RVR Director Amanda Carpenter.

“It is extremely disheartening to see Governor Abbott cast aspersions on his own election in order to soothe Donald Trump’s ego,” she said. “There was a time for audits, there were a time for lawsuits to challenge the results. That time is over. It is now 2022 and Republicans should be looking forward, not backward.”

Twelve billboards appear throughout the state and will stand through Feb. 14. In addition to Dallas-Fort Worth, they can be seen in Corpus Christi, Amarillo, Laredo, Austin, Lubbock, San Antonio and Midland-Odessa.

Last fall, the pro-voting initiative was also behind the “TRUMP LOST” billboard that sprouted up in Dallas. That sign depicted the former president hunched over and similarly urged his supporters to drop the needless audits.

“We want to be out there advocating for the conservatives out there that actually believe in the right to vote, and believe in the right for everyone to vote, and want to support that and protect it,” Olivia Troye, a Republicans for Voting Rights spokesperson, told the Observer late last year.

"It is now 2022 and Republicans should be looking forward, not backward.” – Amanda Carpenter, RVR director

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Texas isn’t the only state that sought to reexamine the 2020 election results. Carpenter notes that similar efforts are “bubbling up” everywhere; one in Arizona actually found that Trump had lost by a wider margin than previously thought.

Even if these audits don’t reverse any outcomes, experts fear that they’re working to chip away at trust in the democratic process. Some warn that such moves could pave the way for future election challenges when a candidate again won fair and square.

In Texas' case, such a statewide probe may be costly, with one estimate saying it could amount to some $250 million in taxpayer money. In November, $4 million was drained from the state prison system to help fund county election audits.

Texas serves as a role model for other states, Carpenter said. Soon, Republicans elsewhere could try to replicate the audit, which is bad for the system overall.

Many pro-Trump officials have already failed to upend the 2020 election results, she said. If there were any systemwide problems, they would have certainly been uncovered by now.

“This is nothing but a messaging tool to try to keep the ‘Big Lie’ alive,” she said. “It’s effective because when people hear there’s an investigation, they think there’s something wrong. But there’s not.”

But during an interview with FOX last fall, Abbott defended the audit as legitimate. "Why do we audit everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?" he said.

Local leaders, meanwhile, have largely disagreed.

Texas focused the audit on four counties: Dallas, Tarrant, Harris and Collin. President Joe Biden won in three, including in historically red Tarrant, but was bested by Trump in Collin.

Even still, Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley doesn't see a need to dredge up the past. “The conspiracy theorists who want to come up with all these ways or reasons why this election wasn’t right — they might very well find something else,” he told The Texas Tribune last year. “It’s time to move on.”