I’m going to quote a large swath of this Reform Austin story because it sums up what has been happening the past couple of days better than I could.
Gov. Greg Abbott called for an investigation into Harris County’s election practices last Tuesday, saying that he wanted to get answers as to why a myriad of election administration issues occurred. Delayed openings at some polling places openings, a shortage of paper ballots at some polls, and understaffing problems plagued the county on election day.
“The allegations of election improprieties in our state’s largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct,” Abbott said in a statement but did not offer further details.
He added: “Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened. Integrity in the election process is essential. To achieve that standard, a thorough investigation is warranted.”
But Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum responded that the county is “committed to transparency” and is already participating in the state’s election audit process.
“The office is currently reviewing issues and claims made about Election Day and will include these findings in a post-elections report to be shared promptly with the Harris County Elections Commission and the County Commissioner Court,” Tatum said in an emailed statement.
Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said that any problems on Election Day were technological and were related to the new voting machines Harris County was forced to purchase to bring the county into compliance with the new state law.
That law mandated the new models would be used as they produce a paper backup in addition to electronically capturing voter input. GOP state legislators passed the legislation called SB1 in their post-2020 “election integrity” campaign, despite any evidence of irregularities or fraud.
“Rather than waste resources on this nonsense, Gov. Abbott ought to investigate how many permitless guns have been used in violent crime,” Garcia said.
Also Monday, the Harris County Republican Party filed a lawsuit against Tatum and the county, alleging paper shortages at some voting centers amounted to violations of the Texas Election Code.
But Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu disputed the GOP’s assertions, saying that “The claim that there was, like, thousands and thousands of people who were disenfranchised, there’s no claim to that, there’s no proof of that,” Evbagharu said.
The delayed openings of roughly a dozen polling places on election day led a state district judge to allow an extra hour of voting time at those sites in response to a last-minute lawsuit filed by progressive advocates.
The Texas Civil Rights Project argued the case on behalf of the Texas Organizing Project, which sued to keep polls open. The suit stated it felt compelled to take legal action because election operation disruption earlier that day had caused voter disenfranchisement.
Hani Mirza, voting rights program director at the Texas Civil Rights Project said in a statement “We went to court because these closures and errors, especially in communities of color across Harris County, robbed voters of the opportunity to cast their ballot.”
Harris County District Judge Dawn Rogers ruled the effort was likely to prevail, and that the government had infringed upon voters’ rights, and thus she approved the additional time.
Not surprisingly, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office appealed the organization’s suit immediately, prompting the Texas Supreme Court to order the county to segregate votes cast during the extension while it reviews the judge’s action.
Honestly, all things considered, I thought Election Day didn’t go as badly as some people are saying. There were some glitches, and for sure we could do a better job with the paper, but we’re talking twenty-some locations out of 782. One reason we have so many locations is to give people plenty of other options if the place they went to is having issues. It’s a pretty small percentage, and so far as I can tell, no one has come forward to say that they were prevented from voting. Even more, the obvious remedy to voting locations that opened late or had to shut down for a period while paper issues were being sorted would have been to allow voting to go on for some extra time, so that anyone who was unable to get to another location and could not return before 7 PM would still have a chance to vote. Which the Texas Organizing Project and the Texas Civil Rights Project sought to do and got an order from a district court judge, which was then opposed by Ken Paxton and shot down by the Supreme Court. You can’t have it both ways.
The Elections Office is going to have to make its mandated reports. There was already going to be an audit of the November election, in case anyone has forgotten. Paxton is going to do whatever he’s going to do. If the local GOP is claiming that there was some kind of conspiracy to make it harder for Republicans to vote – pro tip: never believe a word Andy Taylor says – all I can say is good luck proving intent. Until shown otherwise, this all looks like a bunch of hot air and sour grapes. The Trib, the Chron, and the Press have more.