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Texas Legislature ultimately ignores Donald Trump’s lobbying for special session election bills

The former president pressed for legislation that would allow for more audits of the 2020 election, which he carried in Texas.

AUSTIN — Donald Trump’s words may be carrying less weight in Texas.

Despite heavy lobbying from the former president, the Republican-led Legislature didn’t pass the elections legislation he wanted in a third special session that ended overnight Tuesday.

A bill Trump promoted would have let party officials request audits of their county’s 2020 election results and also set up a process for future reviews.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said his measure was meant to address questions about any “irregularities.” But critics warned the change could empower partisans to request endless reviews at a steep cost to taxpayers, as counties would be on the hook for the bill.

While the GOP-led Senate passed the legislation in early October, the House showed no interest in taking it up and Gov. Greg Abbott never added the issue to the special session agenda. A spokesman for House Speaker Dade Phelan declined to comment. Abbott’s office didn’t immediately respond.

After losing the presidency, Trump has continued to say the election was stolen, even after audits, dozens of judges and his own Justice Department dismissed the allegation as baseless.

Last month, Trump began pressing for an election audit in Texas, a state the Republican carried by nearly six percentage points last November in a contest a top state election official called “smooth and secure.”

While the Secretary of State’s office quickly announced a plan to review four urban counties -- Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Harris -- Trump panned the effort as “weak.”

It remains to be seen how Trump will respond to the legislative loss. He had threatened Phelan with political consequences for not quickly advancing the audit bill. Trump already endorsed Abbott in his 2022 reelection bid against two Republican challengers.

It wasn’t Trump’s only setback.

He had also urged lawmakers to increase the penalties for illegal voting back to what they were before Abbott signed a GOP-backed elections bill into law last month.

The sweeping rewrite of election law Republicans muscled through created new criminal offenses and enhanced penalties for some that already exist. But it also lowered the penalty for illegal voting from a second-degree felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

In recent weeks, some Republicans said it was a mistake to drop them. Abbott added the issue to the special session agenda on Sept. 30.

But it never gained traction in the House. Phelan said it was “not the time to re-litigate” the elections bill, which took months to pass because House Democrats fled the Capitol twice in a bid to block it.

Allie Morris, Austin Bureau Correspondent . Allie has covered Texas politics for two years and written about everything from tax policy to child protection. She previously worked for the San Antonio Express-News and in New Hampshire, as the statehouse reporter for the Concord Monitor.

allie.morris@dallasnews.com @MorrisReports
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