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Texas This Week: A conversation with Texas Secretary of State John Scott

Secretary of State John Scott shares his vision for the future of elections in the state as Texas's chief elections officer.

AUSTIN, Texas — In this week's edition of Texas This Week, newly appointed Secretary of State John Scott discuss his new role as the state's chief elections officer. 

Three things to know in Texas politics

2022 Election season coming into focus

The deadline for Democratic and Republican candidates to file to run for office with their parties was Monday evening. That was also the deadline for independents to submit their intention to run to the State. The Secretary of State's Office will now start working to solidify the candidates on the ballot for the March 2022 primary. Click here to find a link to candidate filings.

PUC makes changes to electricity market

The Public Utility Commission approved sweeping changes to Texas's electricity market with the goal of increasing the reliability of the grid, but it could come at a cost to Texans. The commissioners gave orders to ERCOT to lower the max price the State will allow a power company to charge during an emergency and increase energy reserves. Experts say it's not exactly clear how the new price structure will impact your electricity bill, but they expect bills to increase.

   

Construction begins on Gov. Abbott's border wall

Construction has started on Gov. Greg Abbott's border wall. He shared a tweet from a Fox News reporter on Friday with pictures of wall panels being installed in Starr County on State-owned land. The reporter noted the contractor hired by Texas is the same contractor that was building the wall for former President Donald Trump.

Then, on Saturday, Gov. Abbott held a news conference at the site to discuss the efforts Texas is making to secure the border.

Texas Secretary of State John Scott discusses his new role

The state's chief elections officer has been on the job for just about two months now. In that time, John Scott has been busy. He's charged with auditing 2020 election results for the state's four largest counties. He's visited election officers across Texas and now is preparing for the 2022 primary election. He sat down with KVUE in one of his first television interviews to discuss his new role and vision for elections in Texas.

Ashley Goudeau: I first want to talk to you about your appointment. You're obviously not new to Texas and not new to Texas government, but to get that call from Gov. Greg Abbott to say, 'I want you to be the Secretary of State,' what was your reaction? 

John Scott: "Well, honored, in just a simple word. I think it's a lot from a guy that, you know, Granddad was a pipe fitter and his parents, neither one of them went to college. And, I mean, it brought some pride to the family. And, I think, so 'honor' is the best word I can use to describe it."

Goudeau: This is an appointment that I think a lot of people, particularly Democrats, were a little nervous to see who would be named to this position. But you've gotten praise from from both sides of the aisle. Is that reassuring for you?

Scott: "I think it raises the expectations that I be fair and impartial. And I think when we talk about the audit, for instance, that is the thing that concerns most people most of the time and I think most of the legislators. And I think that at the end of the day, the work product has to speak for itself and it has to be fair, impartial and evidence-based. And so that's what I can assure everybody on all sides that we're going to produce."

Goudeau: There was a little bit of pushback. Obviously, people pointed to some concern about your appointment because the fact that you, for a business day, represented former President Donald Trump in one of his lawsuits challenging the election in Pennsylvania. Talk to us about that.  

Scott: "It was another one of those opportunities. They had an interesting case, set of facts. Went up there and the law changed a little bit because of the Third Court of Appeals, United States Court of Appeals, on an electors clause decision. And so, a lot of the ideas that might have been relevant were no longer that, so I thought it was kind of a change of, I guess, goals and I no longer really need to be involved in the case."

Goudeau: Did you trust the results of the 2020 election? 

Scott: "I think I was like everybody else. I went and voted. I went and cast my ballot. I went in there and thought that it was going to be a fair election. And in my personal experience, I never saw anything that was anything different than any election I'd ever cast a ballot in. I think my experience up in Pennsylvania, for as brief time as it was, where the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has 67 counties, there were seven counties that used machines to weigh mail-in ballots. And I think that's the part that gave me any concern, not that it altered the overall results of a presidential election, but it was one of those things the election should be done the same way everywhere throughout the state to ensure that it's fair. We don't want the richest enclaves in our state to have one set of rules and the rest of the state, we all have to operate under a different one. It'd be like Westlake, in a county election, because they've got a lot of money, somehow being able to keep their voting operations 24/7. And the rest of us get, you know, six hours a day because there's not enough money to fund the other voting establishments. So I think you want to make sure that everything stays fair and impartial. And I didn't see any evidence of that in my personal experience up in Fort Worth. When I voted in Tarrant County it seemed great. But at the end of the day, that's what the audit is supposed to evaluate."

Goudeau: While we want it to be fair across the board, it should be fair across the board, we should have a base set of rules. I don't think anyone would disagree with that. Do we not see, though, that different communities in Texas have different needs? And so maybe they should be able to allow some extended voting hours or things of that nature? 

Scott: "I think that's where it becomes very difficult to do oversight, and that's one of the jobs that that S.O.S. is tasked with. And if you have one set of standards, we can use Harris County because it was literally one of the, we'll use them as the canary that has identified some issues potentially that brought a lot of the legislation up, I think, which is they did 24-hour, drive-thru voting. And is that something that was available to everybody in every location around the state? No. And it gets back to a little bit about what I was talking about – the places that have enough money to do their elections one way should not have an advantage over another voter who works and lives in another community. And that's, I think, why you need one set of rules of the road for everybody to operate under."

Goudeau: Let's talk a bit about the audits. You were appointed to this position and then sort of this big project kind of fell on you. And it did, I think, have some political undertones, obviously, that we were going to do some audits of the 2020 election. I want you to first talk to us about the fairness of that election. Your predecessor said that in Texas, things ran smoothly. She did not see evidence of widespread voter fraud. Has that been your experience thus far? 

Scott: "And I really don't want to speak for former Secretary Hughes, but, I have known her for a while. She's an honest person. I have no reason to doubt what she says. I don't think from our perspective, we're trying to do anything other than evaluate what went on during the election in the four largest counties, something that is about 35% of the voters or votes that were cast in that election will be under an analysis. And we're going to let that decide really what we find and really comment at that point in time. I say comment – we're going to address all of the issues that we find. And we're also going to show if there's been security that everybody should have faith in– here's the evidence of it, that it did work right or here's the evidence where it didn't work right. So we want to make sure that we get to the best practices almost on all security and bring confidence back into our elections. That's the goal."  

Goudeau: But you did say address the concerns that we find. Do you feel like you are going to find some things that are concerning?  

Scott: "Well, we've got a first; so we have two phases on this process. And the first phase is looking for people that may have voted in more than one jurisdiction, Texas and another state. Another is, are the counties doing their voter roll maintenance? And so, did all the counties institute the security analysis before the election? So we're trying to make sure, and again give a snapshot of that. And I think there's going to be some findings on those or at least on one of those areas that I think was kind of surprising. Not something that, and again, people need to understand we're not trying to go back. There's no way to go back and change any election, any election results. This is really looking at, are the systems in place that are supposed to be in place, did they work right? It's no different than going to sitting down for a test when we were back in school. We got tested on their knowledge. They're going to be tested, to a certain extent, on did the system work in the way it was supposed to and if there were lapses, what were the net results of those lapses?"

Goudeau: Are you surprised at all, when we look at some of the polling, right, even though it's the same election that people are asked about, they do question the validity of the election. There are Texans who don't necessarily think that it's fair or I know I go out and talk to people when we try to encourage them to come out and vote and they say, 'Well, I don't think it matters.' How are you going to tackle that?  

Scott: "I think that's one of the really great points that anyone could make, which is we don't want anyone to have the unintended consequences of dissuading someone to vote because they don't think it's going to matter or their vote's being canceled. And I think that's one of the things that I fear most about when someone says that an election was stolen or somehow fraud took place – what is the net effect on other voters out there? Will it dissuade them from even taking the time to go vote? And so that's why this audit is so important, is to reassure people that we have integrity in our elections process. It's safe. And I think that's the real end goal of this – to bring back confidence in the elections and let the politicians go battle all they want about policy. And hopefully that gets all the people to go out there and vote, and with it takes away at least a new excuse on why they don't vote."

Goudeau: But now Secretary Scott, let me ask you, some of that rhetoric, regardless of what your audit finds, some of this rhetoric is going to continue because while voting should not be political, it is going to be political. How are you going to combat that if those voices about, you know, widespread fraud or widespread issues are coming from within your own party?

Scott: "So I I think the goal is not to address every issue people have. I think there is to, there is, the goal to make sure that federal and state laws relating to elections are fair. And after that, if someone wants to find something, that's going to be a different issue for a different day and somebody besides me. But that cannot be the role of the State or the Secretary of State's Office because we are never going to sway, we're never going to convince everyone that every one of their concerns have been addressed. What we're going to be is someone who tries to make sure that all the federal and state laws in this state are followed and can assure them on that."

You can watch the full interview with Secretary Scott below. 

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