HOUSTON (AP) — A new Republican-backed Texas law that dictates how elections will be run in the Democratic stronghold of Houston and its surrounding county will take effect as scheduled next month despite a lawsuit seeking to overturn it, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Officials in Harris County, which is the state's most populous, had sought to put the law, which abolishes its elections administrator’s office, on hold. Last week, a judge in Austin temporarily blocked enforcement of the law after calling it unconstitutional. The judge’s order was short-lived, as the state attorney general's office appealed the decision to the Texas Supreme Court.
In its brief order, the high court denied Harris County’s request to stop the law from taking effect Sept. 1. It also ordered oral arguments in the lawsuit to take place Nov. 28.
The new law stemmed from problems during November’s elections in Harris County, including paper ballot shortages and delayed poll openings. It would return the county's elections oversight to the tax assessor and county clerk, which are both elected offices currently held by Democrats.
Harris County officials have said the new law will not give them enough time to prepare for November’s mayoral election in Houston. Some residents believe the new law is part of an effort by GOP lawmakers to make it harder for minorities to vote.
The law was pushed through by Republican lawmakers who accused Harris County officials of mismanaging recent elections. Democrats accused Republicans of singling out the county because, like other large urban areas around the state, it has increasingly voted Democratic.