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Republican Wayne Christian cruised to reelection on Tuesday, defeating his Democratic challenger, Luke Warford, to keep his seat on the state agency that regulates Texas’ massive oil and gas industry.
Christian, who has served on the Texas Railroad Commission since 2016 and is the chair of the three-member board, said his top three priorities during this term are to increase domestic production of oil and natural gas, fight back against what he calls “the Biden administration’s overreach” and secure U.S. energy independence.
He has said if the agency increases the production of oil and gas, Texans will see that reflected in lower prices of gas and groceries.
How Texas counts ballots
How can I check whether my ballot was counted?
Voters can check with their county election officials to see whether their vote was counted. Some counties also make this information available on their websites. Find your county website here. Who a person voted for is not public record. If you voted through a provisional ballot because of an administrative issue or photo ID problem, you should receive a notice by mail letting you know if your ballot was counted by Dec. 2. Voters who vote by mail can use an online tracker to check the status of their mail-in ballot. You can access the tracker here.
How are votes counted in Texas elections?
County officials can begin counting early voting results, including mail-in ballots, on as early as the last day of early voting in large counties. Those results are usually posted online shortly after polls close at 7 p.m. on Election Day. Counties must count results from each polling location within 24 hours of the polls closing. Those counts are added in increments to the tally, which is then updated online. This takes time as polling places are closed down and election materials are transported back to county election officials. Election Day results are unofficial because officials still have to account for late arriving mail-in ballots, ballots from military or overseas voters and provisional ballots.
Where can I see election results?
For federal, district and state elections, you can find results on our results page. The data is from our partner Decision Desk HQ, which gathers information from the Texas Secretary of State’s office and a representative sample of 50 counties to provide estimates as to how many votes are left to be counted and call winners. For local elections, you can find results on your county’s website. Find yours here.
How are ballots and elections protected in Texas?
Voting machines and software are certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the Texas Secretary of State. Machines used to mark and read ballots cannot connect to the internet to protect against hacking. The machines also have seals with unique serial numbers and are locked down at the end of voting. Paper ballots are also stored in locked boxes and must be preserved for at least 22 months after an election. Texas requires counties that use electronic machines to count votes to conduct a partial manual audit after the election. Read more about election safeguards here.
How common is voter fraud?
Several studies, reports and courts have found that voter fraud is relatively rare, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. Instances of alleged fraud have also in some cases turned out to be mistakes by elections administrators or voters, according to the center. The Texas Secretary of State’s office launched an audit of the 2020 election results in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin Counties. The audit is ongoing, but an initial report found few discrepancies between manual and electronic counts. The Texas Attorney General’s office also opened 390 cases looking at potential electoral fraud from January 2020 to September 2022, but it only secured five election-related convictions during that period.
On Twitter, Christian said that he would fight for energy independence and criticized President Joe Biden’s energy and climate agenda as “radical.”
“We need more domestic oil and gas production to drive down the cost of gasoline and groceries and ensure the reliability of our grid,” Christian said.
The Railroad Commission is the oldest state regulatory agency, formed in the 1890s largely to regulate the state’s railroads. Today, the agency mainly regulates the oil and gas industry as well as natural gas utilities, issues oil and gas drilling permits, and inspects wells, among other duties. It’s also tasked with ensuring that companies follow state and federal rules on safety and pollution.
The agency employs more than 800 people and has a budget of $144 million this year. The three commissioners are elected statewide and serve staggered six-year terms.
Last year’s deadly winter storm in Texas — which triggered widespread blackouts that left millions of Texans without power for days and hundreds of people dead — gave this year’s Railroad Commission race new prominence. The agency’s oversight of natural gas production and gas pipelines came under scrutiny after power executives blamed, in part, a shortage of natural gas for plant failures to generate enough electricity. Natural gas fuels the largest share of electricity generation in Texas.
Warford, Christian’s challenger, bet his campaign on last year’s power grid failure and sought to connect the catastrophe to the Railroad Commission and Christian’s leadership.
On Wednesday, Warford conceded in a written statement: “I congratulate Wayne Christian on his victory and hope he recognizes that there is an appetite for change at the Texas Railroad Commission.
“From the start of this campaign, we’ve made the case to Texans that we need drastic changes at the Texas Railroad Commission, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done to draw attention to this critical office,” Warford added.
Christian had bet that voters who support the oil and gas industry would continue to support him after the catastrophe. In the weeks after the February 2021 power crisis, Christian rushed to defend the oil and gas industry’s image. He authored an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal defending the use of fossil fuels and blamed renewable energy for power outages across the state, even though all sources of energy struggled to produce power during the storm — including natural gas-fired power plants, coal power plants and nuclear power plants.
After the storm, the Railroad Commission enacted new rules to prevent natural gas producers from having power cut off during weather emergencies, one of the problems that led to fuel shortages at power plants during the 2021 storm.
Christian told The Texas Tribune that the state’s energy facilities are now prepared for the next weather emergency. But, he said, “we must make sure there are enough of them to meet the energy demands of our growing state,” saying he supports building more natural gas-fired power plants in Texas.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit statewide news organization dedicated to keeping Texans informed on politics and policy issues that impact their communities. This election season, Texans around the state will turn to The Texas Tribune for the information they need on voting, election results, analysis of key races and more. Get the latest.