By\u00a0Cassandra Pollock\r\nGOP leaders on Friday approved shifting $4 million in emergency funds for the Texas secretary of state\u2019s office to create an \u201cElection Audit Division\u201d at the agency, which will spearhead county election audits as required by the state\u2019s new election law set to take effect next month.\r\nThe additional funding,\u00a0first reported by The Dallas Morning News, was requested by Gov.\u00a0Greg Abbott\u00a0earlier this week and\u00a0approved\u00a0by Lt. Gov.\u00a0Dan Patrick, House Speaker\u00a0Dade Phelan, and the Republican budget-writers of the two chambers, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and state Rep.\u00a0Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood.\r\nIn\u00a0a Nov. 18 letter\u00a0to Patrick and Phelan, Abbott said the emergency shift in money \u2014 which is coming from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice \u2014 was necessary because the secretary of state\u2019s office "does not currently have the budget authority to adequately accomplish the goals sought by the Legislature.\u201d\r\nFriday\u2019s news comes as the secretary of state\u2019s office has a \u201cfull forensic audit\u201d of the 2020 election underway in four of Texas\u2019 largest counties: Dallas, Harris, Tarrant, and Collin.\r\nIt also comes after the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a\u00a0new election law\u00a0this summer that further tightens the state\u2019s election rules with a host of changes, such as a ban on drive-thru voting and new rules for voting by mail.\r\nThe new law, which is\u00a0facing legal challenges, also requires the secretary of state\u2019s office to select four counties at random after each November election and to audit all elections that happened in those counties in the prior two years. Two of the counties that undergo the audit must have a population of more than 300,000, while the other two must have a population lower than that.\r\nIn a statement later Friday, the secretary of state\u2019s office referenced both its 2020 audit and future audits required under the new state law, saying that the latest funds would be used for \u201cadditional staff to oversee audit activities,\u201d such as \u201cverifying counties\u2019 removal of ineligible voters from the rolls \u2026 and ensuring compliance with state and federal election laws.\u201d\r\nThere is no evidence of widespread fraud in Texas that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Former President Donald Trump lost his reelection bid, but in Texas, he defeated President Joe Biden by 6 percentage points. A top election\u2019s official in the secretary of state\u2019s office earlier this year called the 2020 election \u201csmooth and secure\u201d in Texas.\r\nStill, Abbott has\u00a0fielded pressure\u00a0from Trump and other Republicans to prioritize a measure at the Legislature that would provide a process for party officials to trigger election audits. That pressure has come as Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly cast doubt on election results in other states that handed Biden his 2020 victory, despite no evidence of substantial fraud and federal courts rejecting numerous legal claims challenging the election results.\r\nTexas\u2019 new secretary of state, John Scott, briefly represented Trump in one of those lawsuits in Pennsylvania.\r\nThe last special legislative session ended in October without lawmakers passing election audit legislation after Abbott did not include it as a priority.\r\nHours after Trump\u2019s initial call on Abbott to act on election audit legislation, the secretary of state\u2019s office announced its audit of the 2020 election in those four Texas counties, though it was unclear what exactly prompted the move.\r\nThe scope of the effort, according to the office\u2019s documentation, includes measures that counties are already required to take after an election. A second phase, set for \u201cspring 2022,\u201d will include reviewing records of voting machine accuracy tests, rosters for early voting, forms detailing the chain of custody for sealed ballot boxes, and other election materials maintained by the counties.\r\nMore recently, Scott\u00a0has called that four-county audit his top priority, though he has said there\u2019s no question Biden is president and that he has \u201cnot seen anything\u201d to suggest the election was stolen.\r\nThis story originally published by the Texas Tribune.