Clifford Tatum defends Harris County Elections office as criticism of 2022 midterm continues

Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum is facing Republican demands for his removal and some wanting the elimination of his office.

Daisy Espinoza/Houston Public Media
Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum speaking at Central Count inside NRG Arena, October 13, 2022

Harris County's Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum defended himself and his office on Tuesday for how it administered the 2022 midterm elections.

A stream of public speakers addressed Harris County Commissioners Court, blaming Tatum for problems at polling locations, ranging from delayed openings of polling locations to shortages of paper ballots, particularly in Republican strongholds.

Among the more prominent voices calling for Tatum's ouster was Chris Daniel, the former Republican Harris County district clerk. Daniel just lost a rematch to his Democratic successor, Marilyn Burgess, by less than 25,000 votes out of more than 1 million votes cast.

"I have one simple request, and that is the resignation of Clifford Tatum," Daniel said. "I count not one, not two, but four sections of the (Texas) Election Code alone where he may have violated and therefore needs to resign, pending criminal investigation."

Daniel then pointed to difficulties with the conduct of Washington, D.C.'s elections a decade ago, when Tatum was overseeing elections in the nation's capital. "This is a repeated pattern," Daniel said. "This cannot stand. He should not remain as our elections administrator so that we can have confidence in the system."

The calls came just a day after Governor Greg Abbott called for an investigation of Harris County's conduct of the election, as well as one day after the Harris County Republican Party announced it had filed a lawsuit against Tatum.

Tatum defended the existence of his office against those calling for it to be eliminated and for its responsibilities of his office to be returned to the elected county clerk and county tax assessor-collector.

"I will say to you that there is more accountability with the election administrator's office than there is with any elected official," Tatum said. "If you don't like the job that the election administrator is doing, you can remove me tomorrow. That is without question. If you don't like the job that an elected official is doing with your election, you have to vote them out of office."

Tatum said he believed at least some of the Election Day difficulties could be solved by revamping the office's communications system linking the presiding judges, the office's call center, and its technicians.

More broadly, Tatum said his office is reviewing how the election was conducted to determine where and why it went awry.

"We are a transparent organization," Tatum said. "There is nothing for us to hide. We have an elections plan. We followed the plan. Some of the plan didn't go as anticipated. We will review what did not work well. We will build upon those things that worked well, and we will correct the things that did not work well."

Republican Commissioner Tom Ramsey called for a full audit of Harris County's conduct of the 2022 election, though the Texas Secretary of State's Office already randomly selected the county for such an audit in July. In the meantime, Ramsey said, "Mr. Tatum, you need to have a town hall, because unless we're willing to listen, we'll never fix it."

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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