Harris County prepares to roll out election system improvements, without commenting on last November’s problems

Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum says a new tracking system to cope with difficulties at polling sites will be in place in time for the May uniform elections.


Screenshot/Harris County
Harris County Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum addresses the Harris County Election Commission, April 5, 2023

Thursday is the final day to register to vote in the May uniform elections, with contests in municipalities, school districts, and municipal utility districts across Harris County. Elections Administrator Clifford Tatum says the county is about to roll out a number of fixes that will help it respond to problems at polling sites much faster than it did during the troubled primary and general elections of last year.

Tatum told members of the Harris County Election Commission that his office is in the process of upgrading its phone network. The new network will let the county implement a ticketing system tracking and responding to problems at polling sites, "which will then allow us to see, as calls for support come in, we're able to ticket those systems, those calls, we're able to dispatch those tickets, we're able to see that ticket get closed, and we're able to monitor the status of that ticket until its closed."

Tatum said the new system would also allow his office to track and monitor its technicians, "so that we can see where our technicians are at any particular point throughout the day, and we will also be able to monitor the time it takes from the point a ticket was opened until the point a ticket was closed."

Tatum is currently facing a lawsuit from the Harris County Republican Party relating to allegations that the administrator failed to respond to shortages of paper ballots at GOP-leaning polling sites on Election Day 2022. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and the Texas Rangers are also investigating the problems for potential criminal conduct. In addition, 21 unsuccessful Republican candidates are suing to challenge their election losses.

The Election Commission voted 4-1 along party lines not to discuss the problems of November 8, 2022, citing the ongoing litigation. Harris County Republican Party chair Cindy Siegel was the sole vote in favor of opening the matter up for discussion.

"We need to shine the light in a public meeting," Siegel said. "The fact is, there'd be no litigation if these elections were run properly, securely, and correctly, and I think people deserve the right to know what went on.”

This was the first meeting the commission has held since the November election.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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