Trump Won Texas Last Year, but Republicans Are Auditing the Elections Anyway

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, speaking in 2017 at DFW International Airport.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, speaking in 2017 at DFW International Airport. Matthew Martinez
Critics have called the Texas governor a puppet of former President Donald Trump. Now, they have fresh ammo to bolster that claim.

Last week, the Texas Secretary of State’s Office announced it had begun the process of auditing the 2020 election in four counties: Dallas, Tarrant, Harris and Collin. The move came hours after Trump issued a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott calling on him to “get to the bottom of the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, a Democrat, believes the timing is suspect.

“This is a weak governor openly and shamelessly taking his orders from a disgraced former president,” he said by phone. “Governor Abbott is wasting taxpayer funds to trample on Texans’ freedom to vote — all in order to appease his puppeteer.”

Jenkins said nobody seems to know what's going on with the state's audit — including the Texas secretary of state. Calling it a “nonexistent sham audit,” Jenkins claims that no one has asked county officials for any pertinent information or documents.

The Dallas County Elections Department reported that as of Monday, it also hadn’t received any directive or information from any state agency, writing in an email: “We have nothing to say about this audit.”

Similar audits have rolled out in states that helped to deliver Democratic President Joe Biden’s win, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Last week, an audit reaffirmed Arizona's election results and also found that Trump lost by a wider margin than previously realized.

Yet even though Trump carried the Lone Star State, critics say the audit is meant to sow doubt in the elections process.

Jenkins said the biggest threat to the nation’s democracy is coming from inside America, by an organized political party and its leader.

“We’re not talking about a group of extremists here; this is the former president of the United States … telling the Republican governor of the second-largest state to audit an election that the Republicans won, and spread a narrative that you can’t trust elections,” he said. “I mean, that should scare the hell out of people.”

When politicians like Abbott cave to Trump’s every whim, it puts democracy in a precarious place, Jenkins argued. Protecting democracy from internal threats is as important as protecting it from external ones, he said.

"That should scare the hell out of people.” – Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins

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Although the secretary of state's office purports to be investigating two Democratic counties and two Republican, Jenkins said that isn’t true. Biden claimed Dallas and Harris counties during the presidential election and Collin County voted for Trump. But while Tarrant County has historically gone red, it went blue in 2020.

While Trump's audit request is "laughable," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the GOP's push to discredit the election is "no joke."

“On January 6, an armed mob stormed our nation’s Capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election," Hinojosa said in an emailed statement. "We’ve seen firsthand the danger of continued Republican attempts to cast doubt on this election — and [this] news is yet another example."

Certain details about the supposed audit remain uncertain.

In its announcement, the secretary of state’s office said it expected the state Legislature to provide funding for the effort, but it’s unclear how much it will cost. Also unknown is who will be tasked with conducting the review.

Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigned as secretary of state in May. The position remains vacant, as Abbott has not yet named her replacement.

The secretary of state’s office didn’t return the Observer’s request for comment.

Recent polling seems to indicate that Texas Republicans’ “election integrity” rhetoric may be working to spread distrust in the democratic process. According to polling by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, Texans who rate official election results as “very accurate” dropped by 5 points in six months: from 43% in February to 38% in August.
Despite a lack of trust, state elections officials have insisted the 2020 elections were “safe and secure.” The Texas Secretary of State’s website also says there’s been no evidence of compromised voting or voter registration systems before or after the 2016 election.

Bruce Sherbet, the elections administrator for Collin County, said the presidential election there was a “very smooth process.” The announcement of the forensic audit was sudden, he added, but it wasn't too surprising because he knew lawmakers had been moving to implement them.

In his letter to Abbott, Trump himself touted House Bill 16, which would allow for audits of the 2020 presidential and future elections. Sherbet said Collin County officials don’t have many details on the audit, but they're ready to help. The state also hasn’t shared its rationale or procedures with the county yet, he said.

In a Sunday FOX News interview, Abbott defended the move, arguing that audits occur in “every aspect of government."

“We have a state auditor, there's a federal auditor for the way the government operations work. Businesses that are public companies are subject to an annual audit,” Abbott said. “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?”
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter