Gov. Greg Abbott (R) joined Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) at a press conference in Harris Co. to tout election integrity bills.

“The integrity of elections in 2020 was questioned right here in Harris County with the mail-in ballot application process,” Abbott said. “Election officials should be working to stop potential mail-in ballot fraud, not facilitate it.”

Then-Harris Co. Clerk Chris Hollins announced plans to send applications to vote by mail to all registered voters in the county. The Texas Supreme Court ruled he lacked the authority to do so as a public official. Political parties and other organizations can proactively send absentee ballot applications to voters. He sent applications to all voters over age 65, who are expressly eligible to vote by mail. Hollins also established a drive-up voting center, expanded early voting hours and established multiple locations where absentee ballots could be returned, although the latter effort was eventually ended by Abbott’s order and a court ruling.

Abbott made election integrity an emergency item, which permits the Legislature to consider related bills on the floor prior to the date the constitutional authorizes. That date was Friday.

“Our objective is very simple: to ensure that every eligible voter gets to vote,” Abbott said. “It’s also to ensure that only eligible voter are the ones that count at the ballot box.”

Voting rights groups and disability advocates have expressed concerns about the bills, as have Democratic officials.

Last week, Bettencourt filed seven election-related bills he dubbed the “Integrity Seven,” and Cain filed House Bill 6, the chamber’s omnibus election integrity bill.

CD6 special: The Brian Harrison (R) campaign released a new ad, “Corporation of Evil,” focusing on the Trump administration’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

Harrison is a former chief of staff of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

GOV: At a press conference about wholesale electric repricing legislation, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said he is not running for governor and is “not trying to compete” with Gov. Greg Abbott (R). Patrick has criticized and sought the resignations of Abbott’s appointees to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Two of the three commissioners have resigned in the wake of last month’s severe winter weather and its crippling impacts on the electric grid. Patrick said he has been outspoken on the issue to make sure he was on the record in case of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, a Morning Consult tracking poll showed Abbott’s job approval had dropped to 53/43, down from the 58/35 rating he had as he announced an end to the state’s mask mandate last week. A third of “independents” now strongly approve of his job performance, double the 16% figure prior to the winter storms, and he is underwater among independents (41/52). In early February, independents viewed his job performance much more favorably (54/33). The poll has a ±2.0% margin of error.

Fort Worth: The mayoral campaign of council member Brian Byrd released a new ad highlighting his vision for the city.

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