After widespread voting issues in the Harris County November election, Republican county judge candidate Alexandra Del Moral Mealer filed an election contest to challenge the outcome of her race and request a new election.
“After reviewing all publicly available data, I have decided to file an election contest in light of the post-election assessment submitted by Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum. It is inexcusable that after two months, the public is no further along in knowing if, and to what extent, votes were suppressed,” said Mealer on Thursday.
Mealer, who challenged incumbent Democrat County Judge Lina Hidalgo, is referring to the myriad of problems at polling locations, from a lack of ballot paper and operable machines to too little staff and failures to open on time.
“When government calls an election and the county election administrator fails to get enough paper ballots to the polls for voters to vote, that’s real voter suppression in my opinion,” said State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston).
The operational issues that occurred “call into question whether the county’s failures denied voters their right to vote,” according to Mealer.
Harris County—the largest county in Texas with 15 percent of the state’s registered voters—has become notorious for its election fiascos and will be evaluated by the Texas secretary of state once again for its 2022 malfunctions.
Clifford Tatum, the Democrat-appointed Harris County elections administrator, recently released a post-election assessment that failed to shed much light on the issues the county faced.
Tatum was hired in July to replace Isabel Longoria, another Democrat appointee, who was forced to resign earlier this year after grossly mismanaging the March primaries. The November election was Tatum’s first in Texas, although it was not the first time he’s been accused of botching an election.
The Mealer and Hidalgo race 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.
“The Courts will have to decide whether to order new elections or not, but first, these election challenges require a full inspection of all records under the Texas Election Code, and that will be illuminating!” said Bettencourt.
Republicans Mike May (Texas House District 135) and Erin Lunceford (189th State District Court) have also challenged the November 8 election results.
Multiple pieces of legislation have been filed in the Texas House and Senate regarding election security to enhance protections for future elections.
Bettencourt and State Rep. Valoree Swanson (R–Spring) have filed companion measures, Senate Bill 220 and House Bill 549, that would authorize the secretary of state to appoint specially trained election marshals empowered to investigate alleged election code violations, take action to enforce compliance with election laws, and file criminal charges when warranted. The bills also prioritize judicial reviews of election complaints.
The 88th Legislative Session begins January 10, 2023.