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Opinion: Trump Wants Texas Election Audits. What Would That Cost?

Even by the wretched standards of this never-ending Texas Legislature session, Sen. Bill 47 is a stinker. Call it the Sore Loser Bill: It would allow any candidate or party chair to demand an audit of an election, a la Trump in Maricopa County, Arizona. If it passes, getting an audit won’t require proof that there’s reason to doubt the election’s results. And the person who requests the audit wouldn’t have to pay for it; taxpayers would.

Just to make things interesting from the get-go, the bill also would retroactively allow a full forensic audit of Texas’ 2020 presidential election. The bill is supported, of course, by Donald Trump.Let’s set aside for a moment the strain that baseless recounts would put on local election officials. And let’s not worry for now about how the rhetoric around those audits would erode Texans’ faith in democracy and truth. Let’s just consider what one of those recounts would cost.

Yesterday Secure Democracy, a nonpartisan group that advocates for election security and voter access, released a study it commissioned from Austin-based Angelou Economics. While S.B. 47 doesn’t define what would be required of one of these audits, Angelou estimates that taxpayers would pay $35 million for even the most basic statewide version – enough money, the firm helpfully calculates, to fill 70,000 potholes. 🕳👀The most expensive option – a statewide, full-Maricopa forensic audit – would cost $250 million, enough to pay more than 5,300 new police officers for a year. In a big county like Harris, a bells-and-whistles forensic audit would cost county taxpayers than $4.6 million.

One of the biggest factors in the sticker price? The cost of replacing voting machines. Forensic audits require that third parties be allowed to examine them. And then the machines have been tampered with— so they have to be retired.Local governments would also be on the hook for everything from snacks to security personnel to renting a venue.  “In Houston, that’d be what, Toyota Center or NRG Stadium?” said Matt Patton of Angelou Economics.
The kicker? The Senate bill applies to Texas elections up and down the ballot, not just the presidential election – potentially inviting any and all sore losers to demand a recount. Let’s hope this one stays stuck in the House.

Lisa Gray is the newsletter writer and podcast host for City Cast Houston. Sign up for it here.


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