Judge To Rule On County Lawsuit Over Electoral Boundaries

One Harris County official calls the problem a real mess. The federal court hearing will determine whether a lawsuit filed by the Harris County Department of Education over two may primary races will proceed. The hearing involves outdated boundaries used in a recent election.

Last week the Harris County Department of Education, which provides various educational services all over the county, filed suit, asking a federal judge to to void the May primary results and a runoff, because ballots that reflected new boundaries were not used by the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collectors office.

The lawsuit asks that a special election for 2 of the 7 member board of the HCDE be held along with the general election on Nov. 6th.

Assistant Harris County Attorney Terry O’Rourke says they hope the judge hearing the case right now will side with the Harris County Democratic Party and dismiss the lawsuit.

“If we prevail on a motion to dismiss or the Democratic Party, the result of whoever wins the election tomorrow night would be the winner unless there is a Texas election code case file, contesting the results.”

The Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and voter registrar acknowledged the use of outdated boundary information, making some ballots incorrect.

 This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:

“This thing’s a real mess, and I think anybody can look at that. If there’s been a problem, it has been a failure to involve everybody that should’ve been involved in this process. That particularly applies to the Democratic Party.”

Emmett says primary elections are conducted by the two parties, not Harris County.

“And so, to wait now as long as we’ve waited, and suddenly have one party, and the one with the most at stake say, ‘Wait a minute. We don’t like that proposed settlement.’ And I don’t blame them. I’m not saying right or wrong, I think we’re just gonna have to wait now. It’s clearly too late to do anything about the runoff tomorrow and we’ll see happens after that.”

County Attorney Vince Ryan says there’s always the possibility that if the elections stand, the losers will sue:

“Could … it doesn’t necessarily. People lose elections all the time and do not challenge the election. In this case, it has been very unusual, to say the least. But, we think in the long run that is best and we’re not only ones. But it looks like the other attorneys involved, that this is more appropriately in the state court, as an election challenge after the election is held.”

The department of education and the county might share a name, but they are legally separate entities governed by separate elected boards.


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