HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County has a new election administrator. As ABC13 first reported in July, Clifford Tatum will take over the role of running elections in the state's most populous county.
He'll be sworn in next week, but he was the choice of the county's bipartisan election commission to replace Isabel Longoria.
Tatum was picked in a 4-to-1 vote, but it did not come without dissent.
After supporting Tatum's hiring, a commission member and county Republican Party chair Cindy Siegel objected, citing a previous election Tatum oversaw in which there were issues.
"Wrong ballots," Siegel said of a 2012 election in Washington D.C., "Machines not working. People's ballots not programmed correctly. Huge lines."
County Chair Lina Hidalgo called Siegel's last-minute flip a political stunt.
"We first named Mr. Tatum in a bipartisan manner," Hidalgo said. "So that was really what I was heartened by, that in Harris County we were doing something different, that we were being honest about the challenges that do and do not exist, and unfortunately, the vote was not bipartisan."
Tatum's hiring comes after the county's first and previous administrator Isabel Longoria resigned after the primary elections this past Spring, when the counting process was slow, and the count was initially inaccurate. That began a nationwide search which landed on Tatum, who has 16 years of experience dealing with elections at all levels.
The move is not without critics beyond Chair Siegel, namely Judge Hidalgo's opponent in the general election, Alexandra del Moral Mealer.
"Elections were an abject failure by any measure, both sides," del Moral Mealer said of the 2022 primary in Harris County.
She is critical of the county's move toward an appointed administrator and away from elected officials, and calls it bureaucratic expansion.
"You can see the growth of administrative positions," she told ABC13. "Very expensive. High level. And I am not seeing how that is a good payback for those taxpayers."
But the county's focus is now on ensuring a smooth general election in which people can cast their ballots safely and securely and that the count is both fast and accurate.
"The long and short of it is we have an election administrator who is eminently qualified," Hidalgo said. "And comes very highly recommended, that has passed all of the background checks."
Tatum will hit the ground running. Once he's sworn in, he has exactly two months until early in-person voting begins.