As election integrity concerns continue to dominate the nation, Texas’ top law enforcement agency said Democrat officials in the state’s most populous county failed to follow the law when creating a new county elections office and appointing an administrator. The officials have been given 14 days to comply or face “appropriate legal action.”
Harris County’s Democrat-dominated commissioners court voted on July 14 to establish a separate elections office to manage both elections and voter registration—duties that had been split between the county clerk and tax assessor-collector.
On October 30, the county elections commission (composed of Harris County’s judge, clerk, and tax assessor—all Democrats—and Democrat and Republican party chairs) appointed Isabel Longoria to become the county’s first elections administrator once the office began operations on November 18.
But state officials say the clerk and commission missed statutory deadlines for submitting notices about creating and filling the election position.
On November 20, the Texas Secretary of State’s director of elections, Keith Ingram, notified the Harris County clerk of “deficiencies” in the county’s appointment of Longoria and copied Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.
“The Election Code lays out in clear and precise terms the procedure that a Texas county must adhere to should it decide to create the office of county election administrator and appoint someone to the position,” Paxton’s office said in a letter sent on November 25 to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.
“After investigating the matter, we concur that Harris County officials failed to follow proper procedures under Section 31.031(d) and 31.032(c) of the Texas Election Code, thereby exceeding their statutory authority,” Paxton’s office wrote. “The purported creation of the Office of Election Administrator and subsequent approval of Ms. Longoria to the position therefore constitute ultra vires actions and are both unlawful and null and void.”
The attorney general’s letter gave Harris County 14 days to “cure the deficiencies identified by the Secretary of State” or face “appropriate legal action” from the State.
Longoria served as special advisor for voting rights and access under Harris County’s previous election head, Chris Hollins, a Texas Democrat Party official appointed in May by county commissioners to serve as interim county clerk through the November 2020 election. Longoria was behind a number of new voting schemes implemented by Hollins, including 24-hour voting and “drive-thru” voting.
“Harris County voters deserve an open and transparent process and unfortunately these letters from the Secretary of State and the Attorney General show that the Election Code was violated,” said State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston) in a statement Monday.
“Appointing an administrator of elections in the nation’s third largest county should have been made by following the prescribed legal process to the letter,” Bettencourt added. “The Attorney General’s letter is specific that the duties of that office should be returned to the elected County Clerk and Tax Assessor-Collector.”
Harris County is home to over 2.4 million registered voters. Early voting is underway now for a handful of local runoff elections being held on December 12.
Residents can contact their county representatives with questions or concerns about the election office changes.