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The Texas election audit Trump encouraged, then called ‘weak’, enters a new stage

A voter on an Election Day at a polling location in Texas.
A voter on an Election Day at a polling location in Texas.

The Texas secretary of state's office is now asking four Texas counties to provide information and documentation surrounding the 2020 Election. It's the next step in an ongoing election audit that Republicans, including former President Trump, have pushed for, arguing without evidence that there was widespread election fraud.

Though Trump won in Texas by 5.5 percentage points in the 2020 election, he asked Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to audit the results. Instead of a full audit, Abbott requested an audit of four of the state's largest counties: Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Harris. Trump called the move "weak," but the audit effort has continued.

Texas Secretary of State John Scott has said the first phase of the audit is nearly complete, and the request from counties is the next phase.

Dallas Morning News Austin Bureau correspondent Philip Jankowski told Texas Standard, "phase two begs the question, ‘What was going on in phase one?'" He said that might be made clearer when the secretary of state's office releases findings from it. That's scheduled to happen later in December.

Learn more about the background of this audit and what happens next in the audio player above or in the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.

Texas Standard: Trump won Texas. What's this election audit all about?

Philip Jankowski: It's kind of tough to say, to be to be honest. I mean, the audit itself is because of Trump. The governor hasn't said that, but I think the timing clearly outlines Trump makes public his demand and then hours later, the secretary of state announces that it's performing this audit. So I definitely do believe that it is.

This audit comes as, should be mentioned, Abbott is facing attacks from his right flank. [The Texas gubernatorial] election is coming up next year, and he's got two opponents who are trying to position themselves further to his right. And they saw, they possibly saw, the lack of a full audit of Texas' results as somewhere that they could go after [Abbott]. Trump adds some – a whole lot – of kindling to that fire. And so he makes an open demand, and so now we have an audit.

Give us some background on new Texas Secretary of State John Scott, and why the former person in that job left the office.

The former secretary of state was never confirmed by the Texas State Legislature, which actually invoked some ire from the governor. This new secretary of state didn't have to deal with any of that. He was appointed while the Legislature was out of session, so no need for a pesky vote. His name is John Scott and he's got some involvement in some of the Trump recount stuff that went on some of those lawsuits.

What is phase two of this audit he announced Friday?

Phase two is basically a total accounting of mail-in ballots and provisional ballots – seems to be the two largest focuses of this second phase. [Secretary of State John Scott has] asked for an "exhaustive" amount of information from these four counties. And most of it centers around mail-in ballots and provisional votes cast in the 2020 Election.

What four counties are we talking about here, and what do you make of the fact that we're talking about these four counties?

We're talking about Collin County, which is North Dallas; Dallas County; Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is; and, of course, Harris County, the largest county in the state. So we're looking at urban counties relative to the larger state and, as you know, those counties tend to vote more in favor of Democrats; denser populated counties tend to do that. And so it does seem to be some sort of, well, maybe not causation but, at the least, correlation between how those counties voted and the ones that are being examined.

How have local election officials been responding to this audit and this demand for more detailed information?

I'm unsure as of yet. As I said, this announcement was made late Friday. So, many of them might have already packed up and gone home for the weekend. And maybe this is top on their to-do list this Monday morning, but it's unclear at this point.

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Jill Ament, Texas Standard
Laura Rice, Texas Standard