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State officials have apparently found a legal tactic to prevent a slew of election contest lawsuits from derailing the constitutional amendments that voters overwhelmingly approved in November.
The state argued in court filings Tuesday that the lawsuits were improperly served and because Gov. Greg Abbott canvassed the results a day earlier, the lawsuits are now effectively invalid. The law requires such lawsuits to be filed and served before the canvass.
Right-wing activists filed the election contests in Travis County district courts days after the November election. The lawsuits are based on false claims that the state’s voting equipment is not certified and that voting machines are connected to the internet.
The issue took on new urgency in recent days as some Republicans at the Capitol rang the alarm that the contests could jeopardize the implementation of the constitutional amendments, which include property tax cuts that were a hard-fought priority of the GOP. The Texas Senate scrambled to pass a legislative fix, but the House declined to consider it and both chambers gaveled out for the fourth special legislative session Tuesday.
Now, the state is trying to remedy the situation in the courts, but there is no guarantee it could work. Even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding officer of the Senate, appeared to expressed uncertainty Tuesday that the legal strategy would be successful.
In one of the Tuesday filings, the secretary of state’s office argued that the plaintiffs in the election contests “never served a citation” properly. The election code says a contestant’s petition “must be filed and service of citation on the Secretary of State must be obtained before the final official canvass is completed.”
“Since the Governor has declared the official results of the election in a proclamation, Plaintiffs’ purported effort to void the election on a constitutional amendment that is now ‘a part of th[e] Constitution’ is moot,” the filing said.
Patrick seemed to allude to the new legal strategy during a news conference Tuesday where he blasted the House for declining to consider the Senate’s legislative solution, Senate Bill 6. The bill would have sped up the timeline for judges to consider such lawsuits, a proposal that Patrick called an “insurance policy.”
“Now I hope that the governor’s plan and his response … works in the court,” Patrick said. “I have faith in the governor and his legal expertise, but we don’t know what the judge is going to rule.”
Maia Pandey contributed reporting to this story.