Amid pandemic and pandemonium, Harris County appoints new Clerk

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As the GOP’s crusade against safe voting continues here in Texas and nationally, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court on Tuesday appointed a replacement for outgoing County Clerk Diane Trautman. 

To replace Trautman, the Court voted 3-2 to approve the appointment of Christopher Hollins, a Houston attorney who currently serves as Vice Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Hollins, who pledged to serve only on an interim basis until a new Clerk can be elected in November, will now be responsible for running the July runoff elections, as well as the November general election.

Those tasks could prove to be especially challenging given the current political climate in Texas. While a majority of Texans support vote-by-mail, Attorney General Ken Paxton has waged a legal battle against expanding access to mail ballots. That challenge was recently dealt a blow by a federal appeals court, which ruled Texans could request a mail ballot if they feared contracting coronavirus. 

Even still, Paxton shows little sign of letting up, particularly with President Donald Trump continuing to wage his own war against safe access to the ballot. Early this morning, Trump tweeted a threat to withhold federal funds from the state of Michigan after their Secretary of State’s office moved forward with plans to mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state.

The battle over vote-by-mail is expected to continue in the days and weeks ahead, and Hollins signaled his focus on safe access to voting in a statement. 

“We are living in a challenging time,” Hollins said. “This November, our office will administer the most consequential election of our lifetime amid a global health pandemic. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and I will work tirelessly to ensure that Harris County residents can exercise that right safely, conveniently, and with the peace of mind that their vote will be counted.”

Fears over the impact of coronavirus on the July and November elections are anything but hypothetical. During the March primary, chaos reigned in several polling locations around the state as poll workers no-showed over fear of contracting the virus. Closed locations and long lines were reported all over the state, with some voters waiting several hours after polls closed to be able to cast their ballots. 

Photo: Harris County Clerk’s Office

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