Alexandra del Moral Mealer files election contest nearly 2 months after losing Harris Co. judge race

Courtney Carpenter Image
Saturday, January 7, 2023
Alexandra del Moral Mealer files election contest nearly 2 months after losing Harris Co. judge race
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Nearly two months after the election, a contest has been filed in the race for Harris County judge.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Republican candidate for Harris County Judge Alexandra del Moral Mealer has officially filed a contest to November's election after losing to incumbent Lina Hidalgo, she said in a tweet late Thursday night.

On Nov. 9, Hidalgo, a Democrat, won a second term for Harris County Judge by about 11,000 votes in a close race for the top executive position in the county.

SEE RELATED STORY: Lina Hidalgo wins reelection bid for Harris County judge against Republican Alexandra Mealer

On Thursday, Mealer said in a tweet, "After careful review and analysis of the facts available, I have decided to file an election contest."

"Every Harris County voter should be deeply concerned about voter suppression and welcome full transparency to ensure free and fair elections," she continued.

ABC13 reached out to Mealer for further comment. She was not made available. Her attorney, Elizabeth Alvarez, said the lawsuit's basis is voter suppression.

"Our lawsuit is simply about voter suppression. There's a statistically significant number of people who had their polling locations constructively closed on election day because they showed up to vote and they were turned away," Alvarez said.

She said they have plans to prove people's right to vote was interfered with.

"We are going to use data scientists to model the various polling locations in an attempt to demonstrate that a statistically significant number of people was disenfranchised, and if a statistically large enough number of people were disenfranchised, then that election has to be done over," Alvarez said.

Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston, explains while there are clear concerns about how Harris County runs its elections, there's no evidence of widespread fraud.

"Proof is critical. Simply saying there was fraud or there was some kind of mistakes that got made is not enough. You have to be able to prove it was systematic, and, in some cases, you have to prove it was criminal. That's a hard thing to do and a pretty tall burden for challengers to the election," Rottinghaus said.

He believes it is very unlikely the election would be overturned. "These are hard challenges to overcome. Once they've been set and certified by both the county and by the state, it's a real difficult prospect to be able to overturn them, so this effectively kind of a Hail Mary pass", he explained.

Earlier this week, Hidalgo said she was taking a personal leave of absence to deal with a family matter.

Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee released a statement in response to the election contest, explaining that more candidates may decide to file as Friday is the deadline for filing election contests for the 2022 election.

"This is a shameful attempt by a group of losing candidates who couldn't win the hearts and minds of Harris County voters and are now throwing nonsensical legal theories at the wall to see what sticks. Each of them should be deeply embarrassed, and these claims should not be taken seriously by the public," said Menefee. "These losing candidates are finally laying bare what we all know to be true - for them, it's not about improving elections or making sure our elections are secure; it's about playing games with our democratic systems and refusing to accept the will of the voters."

According to Menefee, the contest requests that the more than 1 million votes cast in Harris County be voided and the county hold another election for the races being challenged, adding that Mealer's request is the third such contest that has been filed.

The other two are for Republican candidates for the 189th District Court and House District 135.

As of Friday afternoon, fourteen contests had been filed.

"These election contests are frivolous attempts to overturn the votes of more than a million residents in the third largest county in the country. The county will now have to spend substantial resources handling these contests, time that could instead be spent serving the people of Harris County," Menefee said. "Voters have moved on. Public servants have moved on. These losing candidates should move on too."

Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) said in his statement Friday morning that there were a record number of election challenges filed in Harris County.

"The Courts will have to decide whether to order new elections or not, but first, these election challenges require a full inspection of all records under the Texas Election Code, and that will be illuminating!" Bettencourt wrote, saying that there were a dozen or more election challenges filed in the county.

Nearly two months after Election Day, Harris County released a 54-page report outlining the problems.

During early voting, the document said some voting machines showed a "Controller not found" error message. This required technicians to respond to locations. They also said paper jams caused issues with ballots, though the report does not say how many computers had issues or how many paper jams were caused.

Interestingly, the Astros World Series win apparently factored into Election Day problems.

According to the post-election assessment, "Election Day voting did not proceed according to plan for 170 voting centers because of the celebratory World Series Parade. Several ISDs gave their staff Monday off to participate in the parade. As a result, the presiding judges at those locations had to reschedule set up for Monday evening/night as opposed to Monday morning and for some locations, set up occurred on Tuesday morning. This resulted in reports from several election judges that they were delayed in the opening at 7:00 a.m. due to limited time to set up on Election Day."

To read more in detail about the report's findings, visit this story on abc13.com.

WATCH: Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo talks moving forward after winning reelection bid

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