Houston businessman and Republican donor Jim McIngvale is suing the Harris County Elections Administrator’s Office for violations of the Texas Public Information Act as he seeks details about the November 2022 election.
The lawsuit alleges that the elections office has failed to turn over records and is refusing to turn over records that are “patently germane” to understanding what happened in the midterms in the county. Ex-reporter turned consultant Wayne Dolcefino is also involved in the suit and has filed FOIA requests for McIngvale.
“The people of Harris County are concerned about this election,” said McIngvale, the Gallery Furniture store owner known as Mattress Mack, during a Tuesday morning press conference. “It’s disconcerting to me that Dallas County, Travis County, Bexar County can all have the election done Tuesday night at 10 p.m. Votes counted over. Harris County continues to the next day till 6, almost a full 24 hours later.”
McIngvale gave thousands of dollars to GOP candidates in Harris County, most notably the Republican candidate for county judge — Alexandra del Moral Mealer. McIngvale appeared in television commercials endorsing Mealer that blanketed Houston television airwaves in the weeks leading up to November’s election. Mealer is one of numerous losing GOP candidates who have since filed lawsuits over the results.
In a statement, the county elections office said it “has and will continue to follow the law and Texas Election Code” related to public information requests regarding the election, adding that it has released an assessment of the November election while responding to two audit requests from the state.
The elections office also said it is limited in what it can release because of ongoing election-related litigation. Nearly two-dozen individual candidates have filed lawsuits challenging the results, and the Harris County Republican Party sued the county and Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum over their handling of the election.
“The office has readily responded to public information requests not requiring documents subject to the litigation,” the elections office said. “Any request that involves information involved in litigation has been sent to the Attorney General for an opinion, and both the Harris County GOP and Harris County Democratic Party are copied on these requests. According to the Public Information Act, the Attorney General's office has 45 working days from the day after the request to respond. As of today, the office has not received an opinion on how to proceed with these particular public information requests. Any suggestion that the Harris County Elections Administrator's Office lacks transparency is false.”
McIngvale also pointed out that certain precincts ran out of ballots, which caused long waits at some locations.
“This is not about political parties. It’s about the election process,” he said. “We want to make the election process fair for everybody. Because we firmly believe that every Texan should have a right to vote, and their vote should be counted. And we want to know from the Harris County election board, whether this was incompetence, negligence, corruption, or a combination of all three.”
Neither McIngvale or Dolcefino provided proof at the press conference or in their filing of wrongdoing or errors that would have led to the results of the election turning out differently.
Dolcefino and McIngvale are represented by Attorney Jeff Diamond. Dolecfino said they asked for emails, text messages and phone records from Election Day.
“We asked for maintenance records on the equipment,” Dolecfino said. “What did we do to prepare? Why did so many machines break down in the morning? This was not that difficult.”
Dolecfino said there were also reports of how many people voted in 2018, and the county should have been prepared for that many ballots at the precincts. However, after the 2018 election, Harris County voters have been allowed to cast ballots at any polling location in the county. When this was pointed out by a reporter, Diamond responded that each location should have still been prepared.
“The fact is, historically, voting is done like shopping, people are going to do it where it’s convenient to them,” Diamond said. “While some people may have a location that’s convenient to their office, as opposed to convenient to their home, they may opt to do that. But you’re not going to see significant swings in voters. So if we have historical data that says there’s 1,500 people who generally voted in this area, and we send them 500 ballots, we know we’re headed for a problem already. These records will help us understand what did they know, when did they know it? What were they doing, if anything to solve the problems? These are the kinds of issues that need to be looked at.”
Lucio Vasquez and Adam Zuvanich contributed to this report.