Republicans are once again slamming the performance of Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria, calling her “unfit” to be running elections in the state’s largest county.

Longoria botched the March primary elections so badly, she was forced to resign—but her resignation isn’t set to take effect until July 1. In the meantime, she’s been allowed to oversee the May 7 local elections and the May 24 primary runoff elections.

Now, the Harris County Republican Party says Longoria plans to violate the state’s election laws regarding ballot chain-of-custody procedures during Tuesday’s primary runoffs.

They also say Longoria is “pre-blaming” the party for her predicted failure to release final runoff results until “well into Wednesday.”

Longoria recently notified the HCRP that her office would be sending out “deputized” county employees to pick up voted ballots and voting equipment from each poll at the close of voting on May 24 and transport the materials to the county’s central counting station.

In a statement last Thursday, the HCRP called Longoria’s plan to interfere with the chain of custody of ballots and other election records a “clear, blatant and direct violation” of the Texas Election Code:

After consulting with legal counsel and the Secretary of State Election Division, the Harris County GOP has instructed their Republican election judges to deliver all ballots and equipment to the Harris County Central Counting Station in person.

HCRP Ballot Security Chairman Alan Vera told Texas Scorecard Longoria’s plan to send temporary employees to Election Day polling places to retrieve ballots, election equipment, and other election records violates Sections 66.051 and 66.052 of the election code.

The Texas Secretary of State’s office agrees with the Republicans, saying Friday that Longoria’s plan “is incompatible with the Texas Election Code and violates well-established chain of custody protocols spelled out under Texas law.”

Also on Friday, HCRP Chair Cindy Siegel contacted the party’s election judges directly to explain:

On May 11th our attorneys notified the County that their proposed process is a violation of the law after it was brought to our attention by an attorney specializing in election law… To put it more plainly—Isabel is asking you to break the law. The question is why?

“The EA is laying the Democrats’ groundwork for the November election with a process that does not ensure the chain of custody of ballots and equipment and will be one more reason they will use to justify why they can’t finalize the vote count within the time prescribed by the law,” Siegel said.

Longoria responded to Republicans’ concerns by saying if election judges deliver the ballots as prescribed by law, it will “result in a slower count, straining our resources, and ensuring that final unofficial results will not be released until well into Wednesday.”

“The problem is not with the work done at the central counting station on election night,” Vera said. “The problem is that Longoria has no grasp of basic principles of logistics.”

While Longoria maintains the pickup process is a convenience for poll workers, Vera said some GOP election judges felt intimidated by the elections office to participate.

Vera added, “Because the Harris County Republican Party refuses to participate in her illegal action, Longoria has pre-blamed Republicans for the election counting delays Longoria will again deliver for the primary runoff election.”

According to Vera, Longoria’s actions Tuesday will repeat violations committed during the nonpartisan elections earlier this month:

Longoria illegally sent election night runners to every polling place for the recent May 7 election. She claimed that this approach would virtually guarantee speedy election results that night. However, while every other large Texas county had reported the May 7 election results by midnight that night, Longoria didn’t report final unofficial results until after 9:30 Sunday morning.

“Longoria’s illegal method of having temporary couriers pick up critical election materials destroyed any chain of custody,” Vera added.

The HCRP’s statement last week described a series of chain-of-custody violations by Longoria’s office during the May 7 election:

  • Thirteen ballot bags that “went missing” and were not delivered by Harris County employees until the following morning;
  • a 15-hour delayed final count of the votes after the closing of the polls;
  • multiple polls where “deputized” Harris County employees never showed up to pick up the ballots after the polls closed; and
  • an election judge instructed by the Elections Administrator’s office to take voted ballots home when no one from the county showed up to pick them up, and to “just bring them in the next morning.”

“This blatant disregard of the law that Isabel Longoria has displayed is cause for serious concern,” said Harris County GOP Legal Counsel Steve Mitby. “The lack of security and chain of custody of ballots and voting equipment showcased by the Elections Administrator further proves why she is not fit to be running one of the largest county elections.”

Longoria was a partisan appointee chosen in late 2020 by Harris County’s now-embattled Democrat County Judge Lina Hidalgo, even though Longoria had no experience running elections.

She was forced to resign after multiple failures during this year’s March 1 primaries—including failing to properly staff and supply polling places, reporting results an unprecedented day later than required by state law, and failing to include votes from 10,000 mail ballots in the official count.

“When the election results are late (again) on May 24, it will not be because Republican election judges have personally and securely delivered their election materials to the county,” Vera added. “It will be because Longoria’s illegal logistical process has failed yet again.”

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.