Gov. Abbott Calls For an Investigation Into Harris County's Ballot Counting Practices

Harris County voters in the 2022 midterms.
Harris County voters in the 2022 midterms. Photo by Faith Bugenhagen

Harris County, still dealing with a request for documentation on how it ran its 2018 midterms, now faces a new investigation for the just-completed 2022 elections thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott who singled out this  county once again calling for a criminal investigation into the process.

Amid Republican Party accusations that there was not a timely response to the request for more paper ballots at certain polling stations, delays in opening some polls, problems with voting machines and staffing issues, Abbott called for the Texas Rangers, the Texas Secretary of State and the Texas Attorney General's Office to investigate "allegations of improprieties" in the November 8 election in Harris County. In several closely fought races, Democrats prevailed over Republicans in Harris County.

"I'm calling on the Secretary of State, the Attorney General's Office, and the Texas Rangers to initiate investigations into allegations of improprieties in the way that the 2022 elections were conducted in Harris County. The allegations of election improprieties in our state's largest county may result from anything ranging from malfeasance to blatant criminal conduct. Voters in Harris County deserve to know what happened. Integrity in the election process is essential. To achieve that standard, a thorough investigation is warranted."

The Harris County GOP on Monday also announced it was filing a lawsuit against Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum saying there were thousands of people who tried to vote and couldn't.

Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum said he will have a post elections report and issued a statement that:

"The office is currently reviewing issues and claims made about Election Day and will include these findings in a post-elections report to be shared promptly with the Harris County Elections Commission and the County Commissioner Court,”
Reactions to Abbott's announcement was swift with support from Republicans and criticism from Democrats and more liberal groups.

Texas Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) applauded Abbott's action saying:

"This is the worst election day ever by a major county election's department that I've seen in my lifetime! Specific polls were apparently given too few ballots to begin with, and repeated requests by presiding judges and political party representatives, etc, were denied for over half a day. It's abominable that government holds an election, but either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide voters with paper ballots to cast their votes!"

"I suspect many election contests will be filed. This is not about being an election denier, it is about actual reported voter irregularities. This is about voter suppression because it's simply unbelievable that in the 21st century citizens show up to vote and can't cast their ballots...the cause of this must be determined."

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, a Democrat, issued his own statement, saying:

“Taking a page from Trump’s 2020 election subversion playbook, Governor Abbott and election deniers across Texas have laid the groundwork to cast doubt on Harris County’s midterm elections for over a year. Before votes were ever cast or counted, they weaponized partisan election probes, conspiracy theories, and anti-democracy laws like SB 1 to put this play into motion. The people rejected those tactics last Tuesday, and I’m confident that democracy will still win the day.”

The Texas Civil Rights project fired back as well with Voting Rights Program Director Hani Mirza  saying:

"Today’s announcement is precisely what Texas civil rights organizations were worried about when we called for the Department of Justice to send federal monitors to Harris County. After the Secretary of State singled out Harris County before the election, the Governor now calls for an investigation of that county while the county finalizes election results – even though voters in other counties across the state experienced many of the same issues. Launching a criminal investigation of election issues would be an especially clear and alarming escalation of the State’s campaign against the voters of Harris County – the most diverse county in Texas. The State has proven time and time again that it is a bad-faith actor when it comes to protecting voters. The Governor should rescind his self-interested call for investigations, and allow election officials to do their jobs and finalize the election results.”
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing