Elections

Harris County DA Kim Ogg had no choice but to investigate election allegations, deputy says

Nathan Beedle, misdemeanor trial bureau chief for Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, said state law explicitly mandated the steps she had to take once she received a request to investigate from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.

Kim Ogg
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Harris County DA Kim Ogg requests additional funding for the DA’s office at Commissioners Court on March 22, 2022.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office is investigating alleged criminal activity in how the county ran the Nov. 8 election. While DA Kim Ogg has come under fire from local and state Democratic officials for opening the investigation, she had little choice in the matter.

The Texas Secretary of State's Office formally requested that Ogg help with an investigation into possible criminal activity relating to shortages of paper ballots at 16 polling sites on Election Day.

"The secretary of state sent a letter to Kim Ogg detailing that they had some interviews that were conducted of personnel where potentially criminal violations might be at issue," said Nathan Beedle, misdemeanor trial bureau chief in the DA's office. "And as a result, we forwarded that to the Texas Rangers for them to investigate in accordance with the code, which is (Section) 273 of the Elections Code here in Texas."

Beedle said that, under state election law, Ogg had no leeway about how to proceed once she received the request from the secretary of state.

"The Texas Legislature has specifically outlined the duties of the District Attorney when credible information regarding election allegations takes place," Beedle said. "It states that the District Attorney ‘shall investigate.' It's not ‘may' or ‘can.' They shall. Kim Ogg has no other recourse but to follow state law and do what she's doing now, which is referring the information on to the Texas Rangers for further investigation."

Harris County District Attorney's Office
Nathan Beedle, Misdemeanor Trial Bureau Chief, Harris County District Attorney’s Office

If the Texas Rangers find evidence that criminal activity has been committed, they will refer their findings back to the DA's office. The DA would then in turn present the evidence to a Harris County grand jury, which would then determine whether to hand down any indictments.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who won re-election statewide on Nov. 8 but received fewer votes than Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in Harris County, called for such an investigation in a Nov. 14 letter he shared on social media. He asked for inquiries by the Texas Rangers, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety; by the secretary of state's office, which oversees elections in Texas; and by the Texas Attorney General's Office, headed by fellow Republican Ken Paxton, who also lost in the state's largest county but was re-elected nonetheless.

Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released a statement Thursday accusing Ogg of siding with Republican state officials.

"In 2021, Texas Republicans moved mountains to make it harder for Black and Brown residents of Harris County to vote,” Hinojosa said. “It appears that in 2022, after Democrats made significant holds and gains in Harris, Republicans are doubling down on their voter suppression efforts. Today, we call on Harris County DA Kim Ogg to stop enabling Texas Republicans' insidious efforts to silence Black and Brown Houstonians."

Hinojosa's statement echoed a similar one released by Harris County Democratic Party chairman Odus Evbagharu on Wednesday.

"DA Ogg should be focused on convicting cop killers rather than playing general counsel for Gov. Abbott and the Harris County Republican Party," Evbagharu said. "Her actions speak to having an eye on scoring political points rather than having true concern about identifying and solving the issues that impacted the midterm elections in Harris County."

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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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