Elections 2022Local NewsHarris County Leaves 10,000 Ballots Out of Reported Results

Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said that 6,000 Democratic and 4,000 Republican ballots were left out of election tallies; enough to change results in some close races.
March 7, 2022
https://thetexan.news/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Harris-County-Voting-Sticker-Elections-Administration-Houston-VW-1280x853.jpg
Last Saturday night, Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria announced that her department had failed to include about 10,000 ballots in election night totals.  

According to a press release from the Harris County elections department, approximately 6,000 Democratic and 4,000 Republican primary ballots were scanned in but not properly transferred into the final results, and the missing votes will not be reported until the Central Count Committee next meets on Tuesday, March 8.

Longoria noted that the missing votes were discovered as county officials began conducting a series of checks and balances, and said her department would be working with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office to correct the miscount.  

Pledging to provide transparency and updates as they became available, Longoria added, “While we understand the seriousness of this error, the ability to identify and correct this issue is the result of a lengthy, rigorous process and is a positive example of the process ultimately working as it should.”

While many races were decided by larger margins, in the Democratic primary for Texas House District 142, incumbent Harold Dutton leads challenger Candis Houston by a mere 163 votes. 

The Texan Tumbler

The reconciliation procedure that identified the missing ballots is one of several mandates added to Texas’ election reform legislation passed last year, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) explained to The Texan

“What gets measured gets fixed,” said Bettencourt.

After news broke of the missing votes, Harris County Democratic Party Chair Odus Evbagharu told Houston’s ABC 13 that correcting the counts should happen quickly and said “voters should know the Harris County Democratic Party is actively monitoring the situation.” 

Last week after Longoria notified the secretary of state and the heads of the local Democratic and Republican parties that she would not be able to comply with longstanding state law requiring reporting of unofficial results 24 hours after polls closed, Harris County Republican Party (HCRP) Chair Cindy Siegel filed a lawsuit to impound all precinct election materials.

After an emergency hearing, district court Judge Fredericka Phillips determined that it was the duty of her court to impound the materials and oversee the process but gave Longoria an extension to complete the count.

Shortly before 1:00 a.m. Thursday, Longoria’s office posted an unofficial count, so the court dismissed the lawsuit, but HCRP’s attorney Steve Mitby told The Texan last week that there were multiple other issues and that the party may file another lawsuit alleging breach of contract. 

Additionally, during a press conference at HCRP headquarters last week, Bettencourt noted that instead of the 8.5 by 14 inch “legal” size ballots needed for Harris County’s lengthy ballots, the elections division had provided only 8.5 by 11 inch “letter” sized ballots which may have failed to print all contests. 

Some of the results posted by Harris County indicate an unusually high “undercount” in a number of judicial races, meaning a voter neglected to make a selection in those contests while voting in others. 

Photo courtesy of Wallis Marsh.

In another example of election day issues, voter Wallis Marsh shared photographs with The Texan showing that although he was registered to vote in Precinct 273, he was given a ballot for Precinct 0001, and therefore unable to vote in either his congressional, state house, or state senate races. Although midway through casting his ballot Marsh notified election workers, he says the election judge refused to void his ballot and provide him with a full ballot for his precinct.

“I have been deprived of my constitutional right to vote,” said Marsh.  

Harris County Commissioner Tom Ramsey (R-Pct. 3) told The Texan that he would be requesting an audit and urging commissioners court to eliminate the position of elections administrator and return responsibilities back to the elected district clerk and voter registrar.

“The repetitive dysfunction of the unelected and apparently unaccountable county elections administrator’s office is unbelievable. Not only did results get reported 28 hours after polls closed, the longest it’s taken that we know of, but now we’re finding it’s inaccurate,” said Ramsey. “People need to have trust in our election process, and so far the implementation of an elections administrator has only jeopardized its integrity.” 

Bettencourt also expressed frustration that Longoria had sent out a press release on the missing ballots without first notifying the party chairs Evbagharu and Siegel. She had also posted and then deleted notices about the inaccurate counts on social media.  

“This is not professional behavior worthy of the third-largest county in the nation. The fact that she was under court order to reveal the counts and did not do so accurately tells me this may not be the end of the problems that have been swept under the rug,” said Bettencourt.

Longoria has focused her public comments on opposition to strengthened voter identification requirements for casting mail ballots that has forced her office to reject applications and ballots from those unable to provide the correct driver’s license number or last four digits of the social security number the voter used to register. 

Bexar County also had difficulty reconciling the number of voters with the number of ballots cast and reported a difference of 7,525 ballots.

Update: During Tuesday’s meeting of the Harris County Commissioners Court, Longoria announced she would be submitting her resignation effective July 1.

###

Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Holly Hansen

Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.