Fiery elections debate continues in Harris County as leaders wait on reports into what went wrong

Harris County leaders also passed a measure they hope will make sure fans enjoy the 2026 World Cup matches in Houston.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Harris County midterm elections debate continues as leaders wait on reports into what went wrong
The elections debate continued at Harris County commissioners court, as well as changes to future events following the Astroworld Festival and how a quorum break could impact the c

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The elections debate continued at Harris County commissioners court, as well as changes to future events following the Astroworld Festival tragedy and how a quorum break could impact the county's credit.

Three weeks after the midterm, still no answers into what went wrong with the elections in Harris county

For the third-straight week, the midterm election was front and center at Harris County commissioners court meeting. This time, the item was requested for debate by Commissioner Tom Ramsey.

"As soon as we can get transparent with what happened and why it happened and what resolution the better," Ramsey explained.

Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum told commissioners a couple weeks ago he didn't know how many polling places on Election Day opened late, ran out of paper and had broken machines. Three weeks after the election, he hasn't finalized a report.

He said they're finishing a partial manual count. After, they plan to release the report.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia said he wants to find out what happened, but urged Ramsey to stop putting the item on the agenda for discussion. "There's so much community tension over this issue I think you could be a leader by helping to lower the temperature," Garcia said.

"It's that important," Ramsey explained. "It's that important that we get it right. It shouldn't matter of me having to put anything on the agenda. It should be something very transparent."

Tatum provided no timeline on when the report would be finished.

A quorum break over the tax rate has left the county strapped for cash and may impact its credit rating

During September and October, two Republicans refused to show up to commissioners court. This prevented Democrats from passing an increased tax rate.

Republicans say they wanted to cool spending by Democrats. On Tuesday, we learned the move may have put the county behind by millions.

The Office of the County Administrator told commissioners the county is $30 million behind in tax revenue from this time last year.

"A logical assumption would be they got the bill later because we had to set the rate later so you get the money later," Commissioner Rodney Ellis said.

Democrats wanted to pass the new rate in September, but Republicans breaking quorum prevented the county from being able to send bills to taxpayers until November as they had to wait on the final rate.

The county administrator's office said creditors noticed and have pointed out media reports of what happened. They're not worried it could impact bond ratings at this point, but there's concern it may in the future.

If the county's bond rating is impacted, it means county taxpayers pay more for projects because the cost of a loan goes up.

A year later: Harris County passes an agreement to improve large events at NRG after 10 were killed at the Astroworld Festival

In November 2021, 10 concertgoers were killed at the Astroworld Festival at NRG. In the aftermath, city, county, and NRG leaders pointed fingers.

A task force was established. On Monday, the group made announcements on changes. On Tuesday, Harris County voted on them.

"This is a great step in the right direction," Garcia said. "Looking forward, we're letting the authorities do their work on understanding the tragedy itself, but to look forward we have the World Cup coming."

The new agreement defines roles and responsibilities, improves communication, and creates a calendar so all sides can see what's happening. On Wednesday, city council will vote on a similar measure.

"This is not the end of the work," Garcia explained. "The task force will continue moving forward to continue to learn from the processes that's been made."

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RELATED: TX Supreme Court says Harris County can include late-cast ballots in certifying midterm results

It's a win, at least temporarily, for Harris County officials in a fight against Attorney General Ken Paxton's attempt to discard thousands of midterm ballots as election results are set to be certified.