A former Republican candidate is calling on the Texas secretary of state to take a more active role in Harris County elections following the botched 2022 season.
The widespread voting issues in the 2022 Harris County November election led Republican Alexandra Del Moral Mealer to file an election contest challenging the outcome of her race against the incumbent county judge, Democrat Lina Hidalgo.
Harris County—the largest county in Texas, with 15 percent of the state’s registered voters—has become notorious for its election fiascos and is being audited by the Texas secretary of state once again for its 2022 malfunctions.
However, the SOS audit has not yet been released, and Mealer is highlighting the lack of progress by Secretary Jane Nelson.
“I do not understand why the State of Texas has turned their back on Harris County,” Mealer said in a video demanding transparency.
November 2022 Election Day problems reported by poll workers and voters included voting equipment that didn’t work, such as ballot scanners that jammed repeatedly, and nearly two dozen polling places that ran out of ballot paper. Chain-of-custody procedures that are key to ballot security were also ignored.
More problems resulted from a court order to hold polls open for an extra hour, which was later reversed.
Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum and his staff failed to answer poll workers’ calls for help in a timely manner, or at all––resulting in a criminal investigation and civil lawsuit.
The county judge race between Mealer and Hidalgo was decided by around 18,000 votes, but 80 percent of the 25 polling sites that ran out of ballot paper were in Republican strongholds, meaning the margin could be much narrower if the election is recast.
Mealer, along with Republicans Mike May (Texas House District 135) and Erin Lunceford (189th State District Court), challenged the November 8 election results.
Although high-level state officials called for investigations into the matter, Mealer told Texas Scorecard there hasn’t been any follow-through from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, or the Texas SOS––which underwent management changes as interim Secretary John Scott resigned not long after the election and current Secretary Jane Nelson began her tenure.
“I want to see the state really take election integrity––free and fair elections––seriously,” said Mealer. “If you asked what should have happened, instead of tweeting about it like a teenage girl––and that’s frankly what I think our state officials did––you should have had the full weight of government behind this. There’s nothing more important than free and fair elections.”
However, “there’s been no action ever,” said Mealer.
The county’s own post-election analysis of the shortage was “largely inconclusive.” But after reviewing help desk logs and calling presiding judges, the county estimated that around 46 to 68 voting centers ran out of their initial ballot paper.
Lunceford’s civil suit is headed to trial in the next month, with Mealer’s to follow shortly thereafter, and the Texas SOS still has yet to release its election audit, which is projected to shed further light on any election malfeasance in Harris County.
“These blemishes on Texas’ election reputation need to be thoroughly investigated,” said Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi. “I have full faith that Secretary of State Jane Nelson will no longer delay this process and thoroughly investigate these multiple election irregularities in Harris County so the voters of Texas can have the confidence in our elections they deserve.”
However, Mealer said elected officials have “shrugged their shoulders” when she’s questioned the status of the audit. She added, “[It’s] pretty ridiculous that nobody’s gone to trial. We’re almost a year away. That’s not much of a remedy.”
“Regardless of the outcome of my election contest, I think everyone deserves to know what happened,” said Mealer. “I can’t understand why people think it’s okay to have this many deviations from the law. It’s very objective. They did not follow the Election Code numerous times, and to just say, ‘Oh, well.’ I don’t understand how that’s acceptable.”
Mealer said she wants to ensure that Republicans continue to vote in Harris County. “Because in Harris County, the mentality is: Why bother? They’re going to cheat. My vote doesn’t count.”
I can at least make sure I use every tool at my disposal to try to fix what I can as a private citizen.
“Conducting a thorough audit of the Harris County election is crucial to reaffirming public trust in the system,” said Christine Welborne, executive director of Advancing Integrity, a nonprofit dedicated to election transparency.
Although a few measures were passed during the regular 88th Legislative Session to address Harris County elections, the county is currently suing the state over the legislation.
Meanwhile, the results of the 2022 election remain contested.
Texas Scorecard reached out to the secretary of state’s office, and a spokesperson said, “We are actively working on an audit for Harris County and our commitment is to an accurate and thorough report.”
The SOS office declined to give an estimated date for the release of the audit.