AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas will welcome a new secretary of state come Jan. 1, after current Secretary of State John Scott announced Monday he’d resign from his office, effective at the end of the year.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday he’d appoint State Sen. Jan Nelson to fill the position, marking her the 115th secretary of state for Texas. But what exactly is the role of a secretary of state?
In Texas the secretary of state is one of six state officials making up the state’s executive department, as outlined in the Texas Constitution. Here in Texas, the official is appointed by the governor — along with confirmation from the state Senate, according to the SoS Office.
Currently, 47 states have a secretary of state position — with Alaska, Hawaii and Utah the sole three without that role. The majority of states elect officials into the role; however, Texas isn’t the only state where the position is appointed.
The governor appoints secretaries of state in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Meanwhile, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Maine all appoint their secretaries of states courtesy the State Legislature.
The Texas secretary of state acts as the chief election officer, helping out with election proceedings at the state and local level while also upholding election rules throughout Texas. The official also works as a senior advisor and assists the governor on the Texas Border and Mexican Affairs, as well as works as the Chief International Protocol Officer for Texas.
In Scott's resignation letter, he addressed some of the developments during his yearlong tenure, including continued work on the 2020 Texas forensic audit. Those final findings are set to be released in the near future, Scott wrote.
What is the 2020 Texas forensic audit, and what is it looking into?
The audit is a review of the November 2020 general election in Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties. Nearly four million votes were cast in those counties during the November 2020 election, amounting to around 35% of the total votes cast statewide.
A progress report released last December by Scott's office reviewed "available data and documents concerning the security and accuracy of voting systems used in each of the four
counties, as well as the counties’ work to maintain the accuracy of their respective lists of
registered voters," per the initial Phase 1 release.
Under Texas Election Code, counties must conduct a partial manual count of votes cast from specific races and precincts, which are decided by the secretary of state. Those manual counts are then compared to electronic voting systems to help detect any potential discrepancies.
In those partial manual counts, there were 17 discrepancies found in a Collin County race, 10 in a Dallas County race, five in a Harris County race and none in Tarrant County.
There were also reviews underway of the state's voter registration list, specifically looking into ineligibilities due to death, felony convictions, a lack of U.S. citizenship and duplicated registration records.
On examples of deceased voter registrations, 55 cases in Collin County, five cases in Harris County, ten cases in Tarrant County and zero cases in Dallas County remain unresolved. For canceled felon voter registrations, 103 Tarrant County cases, 65 Harris County cases, 46 Dallas County cases and 114 Collin County cases remain unresolved.
With canceled non-U.S. citizen voter registrations, state officials are still reviewing 14 Collin County cases, 11 Harris County cases and 528 Tarrant County cases in the system. There aren't any cases under review in Dallas County.
For duplicated registration records, this is used to see if any registered voters have more than one registration record on file. One review remains underway in Dallas County along with 28 in Tarrant County, 66 in Collin County and 7,801 in Harris County.
On the front of possible non-U.S. citizen voters, 327 Collin County records, 708 Tarrant County records, 1,385 Dallas County records and 3,063 Harris County records have been identified and are under review by the secretary of state.