Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is launching an investigation into “alleged irregularities” during last week’s election after receiving a referral from the Texas Secretary of State’s office.
Ogg sent a letter to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw asking for the Texas Rangers’ assistance on Monday, the same day Gov. Greg Abbott called for an investigation and the Harris County Republican Party filed a lawsuit accusing Elections Administrator Cliff Tatum and the county of numerous violations of the Texas Election Code.
The allegations include paper shortages at 23 polling locations, releasing early voting results before polls closed at 8 p.m., the improper disposition of damaged ballots and inadequate instructions on how poll workers were to manage instances in which the two-page ballots were not completely or adequately scanned into machines.
Under Harris County’s countywide voting system, residents had 782 locations to cast their ballots on Election Day. The paper shortages affected a small number of polling places.
The GOP lawsuit, however, claims “countless” voters were turned away due to the paper shortages and did not go to a second location to vote.
See here for the background. Ogg, who was not exactly an asset to Democrats in this election, has taken some heat for this. I get that and I’m not here to defend any of her recent actions, but I’m not exercised about this. There was going to be an investigation of some kind once Abbott threw his tantrum, and given that it can’t be Ken Paxton unless he’s invited in, it may as well be the local DA. Having the Texas Rangers assist makes sense in that it’s best to have outside help for an internal political matter. If this turns out to be much ado about nothing, as I believe it is, then let the Rangers take the blame from the Republicans for not finding anything. I am not going to waste my energy sweating about this at this time.
Harris County Elections Administrator Cliff Tatum, speaking at length publicly for the first time since Election Day, pledged a complete assessment of voting issues Tuesday but said the county is in “dire need” of improvements to the way it conducts elections.
“A full assessment is in order,” Tatum told Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. “We have started that assessment, but I’d like to remind you and the public we are still counting votes.”
He said his office still was working its way through about 2,100 provisional ballots cast after 7 p.m. last Tuesday. A state district judge ordered the county to keep the polls open until 8 p.m. because some voting locations failed to open on time. Those provisional ballots are being kept separate from the unofficial count, pending a court ruling on the validity of those votes.
The deadline for the county to canvass the vote is Nov. 22.
Tatum told Commissioners Court his staff is contacting each election judge to gather feedback and assess challenges they faced, including any technical difficulties and the response they received.
At least one polling place had a late opening and certain locations ran out of paper, Tatum confirmed.
Tatum took over the job in August, just two months before early voting in the November election began. So far, he noted the county is in “dire need” of some critically needed improvements, including a better communication system, more maintenance and operations personnel and a tracking system for monitoring requests from the election workers running polling locations.
Tatum said he has spoken with election judges who requested technical help and did not receive it.
“Because I can’t track that technician within the system that I have, I can’t tell you what happened,” Tatum said.
I dunno, maybe wait until all the work is done and see what happens before storming the barricades? And yes, especially now that they have full control over the budget, the Democratic majority on Commissioners Court needs to ensure this office has sufficient resources. We need to do better. Reform Austin has more.