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Texas attorney general asked Trump administration to revoke COVID relief funds for Harris County

David Knowles
·Senior Editor
·3 min read
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Trump administration in the spring to revoke millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief for Harris County, which includes Houston, because the funds were earmarked to expand mail-in voting in the 2020 election.

Paxton wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on May 21, the Houston Chronicle reported, claiming that using federal money to increase mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic violated state law. The existence of the letter, which was obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was made public on Tuesday.

“We respectfully ask the department to scrutinize its award of CARES Act funding to Harris County in light of the county’s stated intent to use federal funding in violation of state law, and to the extent possible, seek return of any amounts improperly spent on efforts to promote illegal mail-in voting,” Paxton wrote in the letter. “Without implementing adequate protections against unlawful abuse of mail-in ballots, the Department could be cast in a position of involuntarily facilitating election fraud.”

Paxton’s argument did not sway Mnuchin. Harris County, one of four heavily urban counties in Texas where Joe Biden would beat President Trump in the November election, used funds from the CARES Act to print millions of mail-in ballots to allow residents to avoid voting in person. Trump ended up losing Harris County by more than 200,000 votes, though he won the state by 631,221 votes to claim its 38 electoral votes.

Paxton, whose lawsuit on behalf of Texas seeking to overturn election results in four battleground states was rejected earlier this month by the U.S. Supreme Court, won an earlier case before the high court in which Democrats sought to suspend restrictions on mail-in voting in the state in light of the pandemic. The Supreme Court denied a request by Democrats to allow mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters in the state.

Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Trump has long sought to discredit mail-in voting, although there is no evidence for his claims that it is rife with fraud. Partly as a result, his supporters were more likely to vote on Election Day at the polls. In 2020, more than 65 million Americans voted by mail, while just under 39 million voted in person. Republican-majority state legislatures in some battleground states prohibited counting mail-in ballots before Election Day, with the result that early returns, from in-person Election Day voters, created the appearance of a Trump victory. In states like Pennsylvania, Trump received two-thirds of the in-person vote, which was counted first. But over the next several days, Biden, who won roughly 3 out of every 4 mail-in ballots cast, pulled ahead in the count.

Trump’s frequent complaints about a late “ballot dump” favoring Democrats, and the right-wing media’s calculations of the astronomical odds against Biden winning after being so far behind early on, are based on the fallacy that in-person and mail-in ballots were drawn from the same pool of voters.

Like Trump, Paxton continues to cast doubt on the election results.

“I have real problems with it because we don’t know in many cases, especially these states that took longer to count their ballots, we will never know whether these were legitimate ballots,” Paxton said in an interview this week with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

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