Texas Governor Considers ‘New Elections’ in Texas County After Ballot Issues Found

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
February 3, 2023Updated: February 3, 2023

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for a new election in Harris County, Texas, after ballot issues were more widespread than officials had estimated them to be.

In response to an analysis that found there was a ballot paper shortage that was far larger than previously reported, the governor said that “it’s so big it may have altered the outcome of elections.

“It may necessitate new elections,” Abbott also wrote. “It WILL necessitate new LAWS that prevent Harris Co. from ever doing this again.”

Abbott, a Republican, was responding to a KHOU-11 analysis suggesting that Harris County allotted ballot paper packets that were enough for 600 ballots to each of the county’s 121 voting centers. However, the analysis found that the total votes that were cast exceeded that amount by upwards of hundreds of ballots in some instances.

Previously, Harris County had said that 46 to 68 centers ran out of their allotted ballot paper. The county’s elections administration released a report last month that had admitted there were problems during the Nov. 8 midterms, but it said that a full report will take months to complete.

Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum, responding to KHOU on Tuesday, said that “the implications of your article cast the cloud into the community that those locations ran out of paper.”

“There were over 4 million sheets of paper in the street on election day,” he also remarked to the station, suggesting there was no shortage.

Harris County Refutes Governor

A spokesperson for Harris County’s elections agency, Nadia A. Hakim, told The Epoch Times on Friday that the KHOU news story “is, at best, misleading” and disputed Abbott’s assertion.

“One of several glaring failures of the story is that it compares turnout numbers at individual voting locations from 2018 (before countywide voting was implemented) to this past November’s election (when voters could vote at any location in the county),” Hakim added. “This apples to kale comparison never clarifies whether any site requested or received any additional paper. Precinct-level turnout in 2018 is not comparable to countywide voting centers in 2022. This is a critical mistake in analysis.”

For the 2022 midterms, Harris County had nearly 5 million sheets of ballot paper and more than “3 million sheets of ballot paper were returned to the Elections Office after the conclusion of voting,” Hakim said. “There is no question that the supply of paper was more than sufficient for the 350,000 in-person voters who cast a two-page ballot on Election Day.”

Other Details

In November’s report, officials in the county—which includes Houston—some 170 of 782 locations weren’t able to complete their planned setups on Nov. 7 due to the Houston Astros World Series parade that was held the day before. The report did not specify which locations were impacted by the parade.

“Overall, while the initial media reports suggested a problem more extensive than what the [Election Administrator Office] has been able to confirm, the EAO will continue reviewing the processes and will implement systems to ensure this type of challenge is never encountered in the future,” the report said.

The report noted that paper ballot jams and inaccurate wait time updates caused issues at some polling locations.

“Our investigation has not yet revealed how many of these [voting centers] had to turn voters away due to a paper shortage,” the report stated. “Media reports claimed that a total of 24 VCs (3.1 percent) ran out of paper and had to turn voters away.”

Epoch Times Photo
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 13, 2022. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

But it claimed that “the judges at the VCs indicated that they did receive supplemental paper deliveries, and two of these [presiding judges] from these VCs reported they did not run out of paper at all.”

Harris County’s elections divisions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced in November, meanwhile, that she was mandated to open an investigation into the midterm election after requests from Abbott and the Texas secretary of state’s office. A letter dated (pdf) Nov. 14 from the secretary of state’s office told Ogg that it is now attempting to review “possible unlawful conduct regarding the handling of blank paper ballots” during the contest.

Based on interviews with local election judges, the office said Harris County might have violated two sections in the Texas Election Code. In 16 locations that were reviewed by the secretary of state’s office, according to the letter, five of them ran out of ballots and had to turn away voters.

“From the information we have been given, it appears that most of these locations requested paper early in the day but did not receive timely delivery,” the letter said.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee told NPR last December that state investigation is “just an escalation of the unnecessary and unwarranted scrutiny that they’ve applied to Harris County elections since the county went blue” several years ago.

In the meantime, the Harris County Republican Party filed a lawsuit against the county and Tatum, arguing that several provisions were violated under the Texas Election Code during the Nov. 8 midterms.

“It was worse than what we even knew,” Harris GOP Chair Cindy Siegel told KHOU this week, asserting that it was “mismanagement at best.”

“And there’s no excuse in my mind.”

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