First Republican case challenging Harris County’s November 2022 election results gets underway

This first case involves a challenge by a Republican former judge, Erin Lunceford, who ran for district court judge and lost to Democrat Tamika “Tami” Craft by a margin of 2,743 votes.


Harris County Civil Courthouse
Macie Kelly/Houston Public Media
Pictured is the Harris County Civil Courthouse located in downtown Houston.

The first case against Harris County for problems in the conduct of the November 2022 election is underway.

The Harris County Republican Party sued Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum after several issues during the election, including numerous polling locations running out of ballots and machine errors. There are 21 other cases, with challenges filed by the Republican candidates who lost their elections in November, including Erin Lunceford. Among them are GOP candidate for Harris County Judge, Alexandra del Moral Mealer. Another lawsuit against Tatum comes from Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale.

This first case involves a challenge by a Republican former judge, Erin Lunceford, who ran for district court judge and lost to Democrat Tamika "Tami" Craft by a margin of 2,743 votes.

Andy Taylor, lead attorney for Lunceford is arguing that at least 3,000 voters were turned away from the polls because polling locations ran out of ballot paper. He's arguing that the Harris County Election Administrator's Office assigned 600 sets of ballot paper to most polling locations, the same as in prior midterm elections in 2018, even though they should have expected an increase in turnout. In addition, Taylor says, Harris County Elections Administrator’s attorneys misled the judge who granted an extension of voting hours by telling that judge, incorrectly, that they would be able to resupply all the polling locations. All of this, he argues, is the responsibility of Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum.

"We will show that there are more votes in the canvass than actual voters who voted," Taylor said in his opening statement. "None of the government's numbers add up. They make no sense."

The question is, are there eligible voters who did not get to cast legal votes. State law says that, if after testimony is completed – which is estimated to take 2 weeks – Judge David Peeples, who is presiding over the case, can ascertain the true outcome of the election, he shall declare the winner, but if Peeples cannot ascertain the true outcome, he shall declare the election void and call for a new election.

Taylor added they will provide evidence of the government condoning double voting, when the first page of a ballot had been successfully scanned but the second page had not. He says that 1,116 people voted illegally in Harris County, even though they provided addresses in Statements of Residence outside of Harris County.

Before the trial, the judge called all reporters to the bench and set rules for use of cameras in the courtroom. Several outlets' reporters, including Wayne Dolcefino, who is part of a separate lawsuit against the Election Administrator's office, tried to argue in favor of allowing either more extended use of video cameras or live streaming.

Judge Peeples ultimately ruled in favor of allowing live streaming. After issuing this ruling, but before Taylor began the plaintiff’s opening statement, Peeples said, “I'm from San Antonio. I don't have a stake in this case except as a member of the public. I care more about the rule of law than about who wins this case or the other 20 cases. I'm going to call every decision the way I see it and let the chips fall.”

Kevin Haynes, lead attorney for defendant, Judge Tamika Craft, argued this was not a close election. He said no Texas court has ever overturned an election with such a large margin of victory. Lunceford conceded. Haynes said that the plaintiff’s strategy grew out of plans that were developed before the election by officials of the Harris County Republican Party.

Haynes went down the list of expert witnesses the plaintiff’s lawyers intended to call and said they were, without exception, officials of the Harris County Republican Party with no training or experience in running elections. Haynes cited the press conference Andy Taylor led in announcing the Lunceford suit, with Taylor saying the trial would be a “day of reckoning” for Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum.

“We all know by now that the Legislature has passed a bill to in essence fire Clifford Tatum,” Haynes said.

Haynes argued that the case law showed that the plaintiff could not meet the burden of proof necessary to require a new election. He said the plaintiff’s team was seeking to disenfranchise nearly 30,000 voters not on the basis of illegally cast votes but on the basis of alleged mistakes committed by the county’s election administration. He concluded by noting that Lunceford’s team would not produce a single voter as a witness to testify, nor would Lunceford herself testify. Haynes was followed by defense co-counsel Nick Ware, who disputed Andy Taylor’s claim that some 1,116 Statements of Residence showed that people had voted who were not residents of Harris County, showing two examples to illustrate his point that Taylor was looking to disqualify voters who lived on the edge of the county but still within its borders.

“The evidence is going to show that just because Mr. Taylor says it’s so, doesn’t mean it’s so,” Ware said.

The plaintiff’s first witness was Victoria Williams, a former history teacher who has worked as an election clerk and presiding election judge for Harris County since 2014. Williams testified that in November 2022, she was the presiding election judge at the Spring First Church election center. She said that she first became concerned that she was about to run out of ballot paper around 3 p.m., when she unwrapped her last package of paper. She testified that she called the Harris County Elections Administrator’s office and was on hold for about 30 minutes before being told she would be resupplied. Williams said she ran out of paper around 4 p.m. She said she eventually was resupplied with paper, but not until 10:15 p.m. She estimated that in the interim, somewhere between 190 and 270 people left the polling site without voting.

Under cross examination, Williams admitted that she did not calculate the number of voters who had left without voting at the time, but rather that she did so later after being asked to do so by the Harris County Republican Party. She further admitted that she could not guarantee to the judge at what time she ran out of ballot paper, nor could she say with a certainty that those people who had left her polling location had not voted at another polling location nearby.

According to timestamps from, analyzed during an investigation by Houston Public Media, there was a 275 minute gap in votes cast at Spring First Church on November 8, 2022, beginning at 5:27 p.m. and ending at 10:02 p.m.

Ariel Worthy contributed to this report.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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