Harris County had 'multiple failures,' and violated election law, according to new audit

Friday, October 20, 2023
Harris County violated election law, according to audit report
With less than three weeks away from this year's election, a new audit details what went wrong in Harris County during the 2022 election.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas -- A preliminary report from the Texas Secretary of State's office found that Harris County's 2022 election administration had "multiple failures" that could have prevented some voters from casting a ballot, but the report stopped short of suggesting the outcome of any race was affected.

The first draft of the audit, which was released Thursday afternoon, days before early voting for constitutional amendments is set to start across the state, reaffirmed the county failed to supply its voting centers with enough paper ballots. It also found its voter registration system listed 9,000 more voters than were recorded with the state and that 3,600 mail ballots were sent to voters that were not reported to the state.

The county - the nation's third most populous - also failed to adequately train election workers, the audit stated.

"Harris County clearly had multiple failures conducting the election and violated election law for estimating needed ballot paper. Mistakes like these led to a poorly executed election which left many Harris County residents frustrated and may have prevented them from voting," Secretary of State Jane Nelson said in a statement. "It is important to talk about these issues now in order to address them before the 2024 election cycle."

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Harris County officials declined to immediately comment.

Former Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum previously acknowledged there were insufficient ballots at certain polling locations and failures by the technical team on the field.

The county's mishandling of the 2022 election - which has faced several lawsuits, many of them that have already been dropped or dismissed - sparked a series of legislative debates earlier this year.

Among them, Republican lawmakers forced the county to dissolve its recently established elections administration office, splitting election duties among the county clerk and tax assessor. The fall election will be the first election since the law took effect.

Harris County is suing the state to reverse the law. Oral arguments at the state Supreme Court are expected later this year.

Nelson, in her statement, said she was thankful for the cooperation from Harris County officials and that a repeat of these problems "is unacceptable."

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