Politics

Harris County missed 10,000 mail-in ballots, the latest reported 2022 primary snafu

The county missed about 6,000 Democratic and 4,000 Republican votes.

In this Sept. 29, 2020 file photo, Harris County election worker Jose Vasquez prepares mail-in ballots to be sent to voters in Houston.

Harris County failed to include 10,000 mail-in ballots in its unofficial election night count, the latest oversight in an already controversial 2022 primary election.

The county missed about 6,000 Democratic and 4,000 Republican votes, which Election Administrator Isabel Longoria’s office said occurred between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. election night while the two parties on the Central Count Committee reviewed ballots. While the votes were scanned, they ultimately were not included when Longoria’s office announced its unofficial final results early Thursday morning.

Longoria’s office is working to correct the issue, and has been in contact with the Secretary of State’s Office, according to a statement from spokesperson Leah Shah.

“While we understand the seriousness of this error, the ability to identify and correct this issue is a result of a lengthy, rigorous process and is a positive example of the process ultimately working as it should,” Shah said.

The votes will not be included in the final count until at least Tuesday, when the Central Count Committee meets, she added.

Sam Taylor, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, confirmed in an email Monday that the office reached out to Harris County after noticing the discrepancy on Friday.

“We agree that this is the process working as it should,” Taylor said. “Additionally, it's only because this Election Night reconciliation form is now required for all 254 counties that we were able to identify the discrepancy and work with the county to find out exactly what happened.”

The miscount is just the latest controversy surrounding election night, which was marred by a delay in the unofficial vote count by more than 24 hours.

The Secretary of State’s office was originally advised of potential delays earlier on Election Day after the two parties reached out on their own. Longoria herself alluded to delays in results throughout the day, but appeared to backtrack on election night, indicating her office would not miss any statutory deadlines to return all election materials. Failure to return election materials within 24 hours of polls closing is considered a misdemeanor under state law, though it’s not clear how the law could be enforced. Under the law, that deadline was supposed to be Wednesday at 7 p.m.

On Wednesday evening, a district judge ordered those materials to be seized if they were not returned by 11 a.m. the next morning. Ultimately, Longoria did meet that new deadline, but the results were not released until after midnight Thursday.

The Harris County GOP has criticized Longoria’s performance throughout the process.

“This is another example of the serious mismanagement of Lina Hidalgo's unqualified Elections Administrator,” the party tweeted Sunday afternoon. “Isabel Longoria owes all Harris County voters an explanation.”

The miscount is likely to provide additional fuel to Hidalgo’s critics, who opposed the creation of the Election Administrator’s office and Longoria’s appointment.

Hidalgo declined to comment Monday, but last week, the county judge said she was “eager to get a full accounting from the elections department, including any state, local, and party-level issues.”

Republican Commissioner Tom Ramsey will propose Longoria’s termination at Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.

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Paul DeBenedetto

Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior digital producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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