Elections Administrator Cliff Tatum will not be involved in Harris County elections operations after Friday, as he will not be hired by the county clerk’s or tax assessor-collector’s offices as part of a massive reorganization.
Harris County’s elections operations will transfer Friday to Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett. The county is undergoing a reorganization of elections administration duties ahead of the November election as a new state law that abolished the Elections Administrators office goes into effect on Sept. 1.
Hudspeth and Bennett will take over less than two months before early voting begins on Oct. 23.
“One thing we are not doing is impeding upon the processes that are already in place,” Hudspeth said Tuesday. “There’s an election plan that’s been working.”
Commissioners Court is expected Tuesday to approve a measure splitting up the elections office staff. They will transfer 131 positions to the county clerk’s office and another 39 positions to the tax assessor-collector’s office, according to the agenda.
“We’re absorbing every single last employee of the elections administrators office,” Hudspeth said.
However, Hudspeth confirmed Tatum would not be moving over to her office.
“I will not be hiring Mr. Tatum in the county clerk’s office,” Hudspeth said.
Wendy Caesar, chief deputy at the Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office, confirmed their office would not be hiring Tatum, either.
See here for the previous entry, which led to this inevitable conclusion. Harris County could still prevail in their lawsuit but that seems extremely unlikely to me at this point. If they did, I presume we’d have to look for yet another administrator, as I daresay Cliff Tatum will be employed elsewhere, and would surely have no desire to come back after the shamefully shabby treatment he got here by the Legislature. We’re in good hands with Teneshia Hudspeth and Ann Harris Bennett, but they will still have to deal with the risk and extra work of this nihilistic law. As I said, it sure would be nice to live in a state whose government didn’t actively wish us harm.
One small bit of good news:
Both offices will have more employees and larger budgets than they did before the 2021 transition, Hudspeth and Caesar said.
“In the next few weeks, we will continue the election plan in place to avoid disruption or delays in the ongoing work related to the conduct of the Nov. 7, 2023 election,” Hudspeth said.
The county clerk’s office had fewer than 100 employees dedicated to elections administration before the 2021 transition, Hudspeth said. The tax office also will gain several positions that did not exist in 2021, Caesar said.
The increase in the number of employees is welcome and was needed at the clerk’s office before the 2021 transition, Hudspeth said.
“We’re doing things in the opposite direction, but it’s different than it was three years ago because it’s now coming back to two elected officials who do many other operations,” Hudspeth said. “We’re looking at what that looks like for our teams and our organization as a whole, not impeding on the services we do each and every day, but also to make sure this division we’re inheriting is successful, as well.”
In response to the issues with paper ballots, Tatum recommended the county implement a system to track issues reported by poll workers and provide additional tech support and assistance for workers in the field.
Those recommendations already have been implemented by the administrator’s office and will be in place for November, Hudspeth said.
The clerk and the tax office also are considering additional staff ahead of presidential elections in 2024, as well as newer software to make sure things run smoothly, Hudspeth and Caesar said.
“We are working very closely to make sure nothing falls through the cracks,” Caesar said. “We want to make sure we have a successful election come November.”
A piece of Clifford Tatum will live on in the reforms he implemented. Good luck to all who are working on this.