Citing widespread irregularities in Harris County’s November election, Republican judicial candidate Erin Lunceford is challenging the outcome of her race and requesting a new election.

Lunceford is one of the first to file an election contest questioning the results of a specific race on the Harris County ballot, and other candidates may follow suit.

The court filing lays blame for the county’s questionable election results squarely on “the flawed leadership” of Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum. Lunceford’s petition says he “totally botched the security, integrity, and reliability of the purported election outcomes arising out of the November 8, 2022 General Election.”

“I believe you should follow the rules,” Lunceford said during a press conference Wednesday with Harris County Republican Party officials to announce her election contest. “This is an example of people not following the rules and getting a result where we all question whether our vote mattered.”

Lunceford ran for judge of the 189th state district court, located in Harris County, against Democrat Tamika Craft.

Official election results show Craft won the open seat with 533,710 votes, compared to Lunceford’s 530,967 votes—a difference of 2,743 votes.

Lunceford’s attorney, HCRP Legal Counsel Andy Taylor, called the margin “razor-thin … 0.26 percent of over a million votes cast.”

Taylor said Tatum’s failure to deliver enough ballot paper to polling locations on Election Day resulted in at least 3,135 voters being turned away, and 80 percent of the 25 polling sites that ran out of ballot paper were in Republican strongholds.

“If it was just mismanagement, the lack of paper would apply uniformly across the map,” he said, adding his survey results only include about a third of the county’s polling places.

He said subtracting certain provisional ballots cast after 7 p.m. (under a court order to keep some polls open late that has been challenged) cuts Craft’s lead over Lunceford by 325 votes.

But it doesn’t stop there, Taylor said.

“We give 19 different categories of violations of the Texas Election Code in the lawsuit we filed today,” he said, citing as examples 700 improperly processed mail-in ballots and final reconciliation report numbers that show 1,190 more total counted ballots than voters.

“This is all the result of this elections administrator deviating from the law,” he said.

Taylor said if a judge can’t ascertain the true results, the court must order a new election.

“Because you can’t declare the outcome, you have to void the outcome,” he said.

The problems in Harris County go beyond a single race or election.

“We know for a fact that people are losing confidence in voting in Harris County,” said HCRP Chair Cindy Siegel at Wednesday’s press conference.

You should be able to go vote and know that the polls are going to open on time, that the machines are going to work, that you are going to be able to cast your vote however you want in private, in confidence, and know that it will be scanned and properly recorded. And that’s not what happened on November 8.

Siegel said other GOP candidates are considering election contests.

Republican Mike May filed a petition on November 29 to contest his race for Texas House District 135. Official results show he lost to incumbent Democrat State Rep. Jon Rosenthal 42-58 percent—a difference of 6,176 votes out of 40,532 cast.

HCRP filed a separate lawsuit last month against Tatum, who was hired in July to replace Isabel Longoria, an inexperienced political appointee who was forced to resign over a series of mistakes in the March 1 primaries that some called the “worst election fiasco in Texas history.”

The November election was Tatum’s first in Texas, but it was not the first election he’s botched. Local voters in the District of Columbia, where he formerly served as head of elections, compared his mismanagement of the 2012 election to “voting in a third-world country.”

Taylor said the party is focusing first on resolving Lunceford’s election outcome but will continue to call for greater transparency and accountability from the county’s elections administrator.

“Clifford Tatum, you might be able to run, but you cannot hide,” Taylor said.

Lunceford said whatever the outcome of her election contest, “It matters that our votes are counted appropriately, and that votes that shouldn’t be counted are not counted.”

CORRECTED December 9 to show Mike May filed an election contest petition prior to Erin Lunceford.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.