Harris County’s embattled Elections Administrator, Clifford Tatum, will soon be out of a job due to a new law passed by the Texas Legislature that abolishes his appointed position and returns election duties in the state’s most populous county to two elected officials.

Starting next month, Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth will take over the task of running elections, while Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett will oversee voter registration.

“As an experienced former election official familiar with the demanding work of running elections, I am confident Harris County can administer well-organized, transparent, fair elections,” Hudspeth said.

The county clerk and tax assessor handled elections in Harris County until 2020, when Democrat County Judge Lina Hidalgo and the county’s two Democrat commissioners voted to change to an appointed elections administrator.

The new law reversing that change, known as Senate Bill 1750, is set to take effect on September 1.

On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously denied Harris County’s request to temporarily stop SB 1750.

The county wanted Tatum—a Democrat appointee under investigation for mismanaging the November 2022 election—to run the upcoming election on November 7, which will include state constitutional amendments and Houston’s mayoral race.

Instead, Hudspeth and Bennett, who are also Democrats, will be in charge this November—a warmup for running next year’s primaries and presidential election.

Republican State Sen. Paul Bettencourt of Houston, who authored the new law, accused Harris County officials of wasting time pursuing a “frivolous” temporary restraining order that shortened the time for an orderly transition of duties.

“The oral arguments on this motion aren’t even scheduled until after the November election,” he said.

Bettencourt said he drafted SB 1750 in response to “serious election irregularities” during Harris County’s 2022 primary and general elections, both managed by appointed administrators.

Isabel Longoria, the county’s first elections administrator, was appointed after the November 2020 election despite having no election management experience. She was forced to resign after the March 2022 primary, which was described as “the worst election fiasco in Texas history.”

Tatum is notorious for botching Harris County’s November 2022 election—the first election he ran for the county after he was hired to replace Longoria. Failures by his office, including not delivering enough ballot paper to dozens of polling places on Election Day, prompted 21 Republican candidates to contest the outcomes of their elections.

Harris County’s Democrat leaders are also suing to permanently block SB 1750

Local Republicans support the new law, and Harris County GOP Chair Cindy Siegel said the party is “willing and eager” to work with Hudspeth and Bennett to ensure smooth elections.

“There is no magic formula to remedy what has gone awry in the last three years since the conduct of elections was removed from the County Clerk’s Office,” Hudspeth said. “There is only plenty of work ahead for all of us, and a great commitment on my part to enable all eligible voters the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”

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.